On Sunday, I participated in a hymnfest at my church. It was a fundraiser for the Lutheran Music Program and it’s major function, Lutheran Summer Music Academy. It was a moving experience and I wanted to tell you all about it, but I didn’t get to it yesterday morning.
I also wanted to talk to you about my Monday weigh-in for WW. I gained a little. I have mixed feelings. I had a lot to say about all that, but I didn’t get to it yesterday morning.
When I got back to my computer yesterday afternoon, I found my Facebook newsfeed filled with references to something awful in Boston. There were all sorts of calls for prayers and questions about what’s wrong with people. I had to turn on the TV and get the quickest updates on CNN. Suddenly my feelings about worship and music, or my weight loss struggles, all seemed petty and insignificant.
Now, I’m not going to write about my feelings about the events in Boston themselves. There are plenty of columnists, commentators, and bloggers out there spouting about all of that, They all seem to be saying pretty much the same thing and most of it, I have no issue with. Most of it involves more eloquent versions of what my Facebook filled up with in the hours after. “Why would someone do this?” “People are messed up.” “Look for the helpers.” (Thank you, Mr. Rogers.) “Remember the acts of kindness.” “Here are the latest facts.”
What I want to write about is my children and how they are processing this and how I help them. I’m going to say things here that lots of people with disagree with. I’m going to handle this in a way that many of their peers’ parents will not like. I’m going to tell and show them things that I will be criticized for. I’m okay with that, and I believe they will be better off for it. So, you’ve been warned that we may disagree. I welcome anyone’s thoughts on this, both in support and in criticism, provided it’s respectful, but the comments in this blog are moderated, just so you know, though I have only once not approved a comment and it was so long and nonsensical I don’t know what they were talking about.
Back to getting the news of what happened. It was after school. The older children were supposed to be doing homework, but were passing back and forth through the kitchen alternately asking for snacks and drinks in an attempt to postpone the work. The little one was picking up on their requests and echoing them. This is the time of day I usually want to crawl under a rock, or the table, but I gave everyone something to eat, something to drink, one more bite, sip, question. Okay, everyone OUT of my kitchen! Finally it was a bit quieter and I opened up the Chromebook to check on the Internet World. I saw my Facebook feed and turned on the TV. I watched in horror as they showed the video they had over and over, received new video and added it. Thankfully, CNN was respectful and never showed any images that were too gory, but there was no doubt that lots of people had been hurt and badly. I got teary, I re-experienced some of the feelings of 9-11. I prayed. I folded another load of laundry. After all, life goes on here. But the TV stayed on.
After a while, the kids finished their homework and began making noise that I found disturbing and I yelled at them to knock it off. Middle Bird and Baby Bird went out into the backyard to play baseball, but they still need some level of supervision, so I watched them, and several times corrected them. At some point both older kids were in the kitchen and stopped to look at the TV. This is the part I know some of you will disagree with. I did not turn off the TV. I did not choose to change my preferred method of receiving my news. I let them see it, as it was happening. They asked me what was going on, and I told them all that we knew at the time. There had been some explosions in Boston around the finish line of the marathon, that a couple people had died and more had been injured. They said, “wow” and ran outside, laughing and carrying on as if life were normal. Because life IS normal for them.
Later when I called them to dinner, the news was still on, and they got a few more details, but they didn’t have many questions and I felt no need to have any kind of “discussion” with them at the time. They got a bit more of an idea of how serious it all was when the president spoke, but then, I have the news on a lot and the president speaks a lot, so they weren’t terribly alarmed.
Meanwhile, I read my Facebook feed and found more and more parents agonizing about how to tell their children about “today.” Now, don’t misunderstand. These are mostly parents who I have a great deal of respect for, and in many cases even try to model. These are parents who I know to be grounded and honest, parents who work very hard to be good parents and raise good, well-rounded citizens who will make the world a better place. I am not here to criticize their parenting, just to point out how I am making different choices. I read over and over about how they were shielding their children from the day’s events to protect them and their innocence. Many of them believe that their children are too young (and some are), or too fragile, or too emotionally vulnerable, to know about the details of the day. I do not tell them how much I disagree with this particular choice. They get to make it, and it is emotional, and engaging them on Facebook can never be productive at a time like this. But I do disagree, in most cases. I think our kids, my kids anyway, are not so innocent as we’d want them to be. I think a healthy eight-year-old can handle this. I think my kids can handle this. I think my kids have to handle this.
This morning I woke them as usual and came downstairs to turn on the TV and get breakfast on the table. The older two came down and started eating. As I checked my email with my back to the table I heard the Middle Bird say, “Oh, come ON! It happened yesterday! It’s not even news anymore, get over it.” That’s when I knew it was time for me to interject some parental spouting. I explained that it IS news. It’s the biggest news story in the country right now. And you will be hearing about it for days, weeks, even years. It’s big news because it happened here. Yes, there are places where this stuff happens every day and the lives lost there are no less important, but that news has lost it’s shock. This happened here. In our country. Yes, Worthington, Ohio is a long way from Boston, but it’s our country. It didn’t happen in Boston because it’s Boston, or because there’s some war in Boston that isn’t here. It could just as easily have happened at the Capital City Half Marathon, or the Worthington Memorial Day Parade, where my daughter and I marched with her Brownie Troop last year. I told them all this. They were chastened for making light of it. I told them that one of the dead was an eight-year-old boy. They got it.
My grandmother died when these kids were three and four. My husband and I discussed at length whether they would be taken to the funeral, and though his initial feeling was that there was no good to come of taking them, I eventually convinced him that there was. I am so glad I did. First of all, they grieved. They knew their Great Grandma. They had a relationship with her. They knew a bit about MY relationship with her, and they understood that she was their grandma’s mommy. I believed, and even found research to back me, that their grief and feelings needed to be acknowledged, not just through talking about it, but by allowing them to attend the funeral and be with all the other people who grieved. I believe that we did the right thing, that we allowed them to have an early understanding that death is a natural part of life and that everyone will experience it. But more than that, because of my faith, I allowed them to see the joy in the middle of the sadness. I showed them that even while we cry because we won’t be with Great Grandma anymore, we are Easter people and we rejoice in knowing that she is with her Father in Heaven, and we will join her someday. I am blessed to have this faith. I am blessed to share it with my children. I wish it for everyone I know. It’s the same logic I used when Grandma died that I use today to share the news of Boston’s bombings. And since my kids have the healthiest attitudes about death of any kids I know, I think my logic is sound.
If I did not have this faith, or want to share it with my children, I would handle the news today in much the same way. My opinion of their ability to take this in and process it would not be changed. But how very lucky I am to be able to tell them that Jesus weeps for the dead and injured, and rejoices for the many acts of faith and kindness shown by “the helpers.” I don’t have to just say, “That’s how it is.” Well, that IS how it is. This IS the world we live in. There IS evil in the world. But God is in the world, too. I thank you, Lord, for my faith. May my words and actions bring light to others who might share that faith. Let my children see me grieve and process this. Let me be their model and their guide. For now, the TV will stay on in my kitchen.