I woke up Saturday morning after having gone to bed early the night before. Never having turned on the TV or checked email, I didn’t see the breaking news about the tragedy unfolding in Paris.
As I rolled out of bed, I checked my phone for messages — Matt was traveling for work on Friday and I wanted to see if he’d arrived safely at his destination. I was surprised to see I had more than a few FB messages, more than would be normal for a regular old day. I opened one to see a friend expressing their concern at our safety, hoping we hadn’t gone to Paris for a weekend, and my heart sank. I didn’t know yet what had happened, but I knew it wasn’t good.
I got online and read the news and with shaky hands and a sickened heart, went through the rest of my messages and assured my friends that we were safe.
But the sad reality is that we’re not.
We live in a scary world where bad people kill indiscriminately those whose lives they do not agree with. We are not safe from that kind of hatred and anger and evil and violence, whether we’re in a major city or a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. It touches us all.
And then I had to tell my children what had happened, because I’d rather control that message than have them hear about it at school. Which they will.
Every single part of me hates telling my kids this kind of thing. I hate watching them absorb the information, hate watching them wrestle with it, trying to figure out what it means to them and for them. Because that’s what kids want to know — although they’re appalled by the violence, they are also just children and they want to know how that violence could affect them. And then the questions begin.
Who were the bad guys? Why did they do that? Could they come here?
And that, right there, is the toughest one. Because the answer, terrifyingly, is yes.
We are relatively safe, living here in a tiny village in the middle of the English countryside. But my kids weren’t asking if the bad guys could get to our village, they were asking if the bad guys could come to England, to London, to the places we go.
I could easily tell them that NO, the bad guys aren’t here, can’t get here. But that’s a lie, and it serves no real purpose other than to get me out of answering a tough question.
So I told them the truth. The bad guys are already here. THERE ARE BAD GUYS EVERYWHERE.
But I also told them a more important truth: we cannot allow that fact to change us.
I assured them that their Dad and I will always make the best decisions we can to keep them safe, but that we cannot, will not, should not live in a state of fear.
We can’t stop going places because bad things could happen. We can’t stay in our house all the time to avoid danger. We can’t give up on living because we’re afraid. That is what the bad guys want. If we stop living our lives and succumb to fear, the bad guys have already won.
It’s not an easy concept. I think, though, that it helps them to know that we won’t change our lives and let fear be in charge — that we have that choice to not be afraid.
I don’t know if I’m handling this properly. I don’t know that there IS a right way to tell your children about evil and violence without scaring them and changing them and taking away some of their innocence. I am doing the best I can, as always, and wondering whether it’s right or wrong.
But the one thing I know I can do is then surround my children with so much love and happiness and security that it drowns out the fear. I can hug them and play with them and laugh with them and kiss them and tell them I love them one hundred times a day.
I can’t change the world. But I can, for a little while at least, control how my children see it. I can make sure that they know that love is stronger than hate, and hope they carry that with them always.