[The views expressed in this post are my opinion.]
I know this post might upset some, and there may even be some who think I’m being an irresponsible parent, but please hear me out. This is a conversation no one should take lightly, especially in choosing when and how to have this conversation with children. It’s a decision each parent will have to make as it pertains to their own family, and what is right for their kids. Some parents right now have no choice but to have this conversation - because their kids witnessed it, know someone directly affected by it, or are asking questions about it that require an answer. I’m lucky at this point that I have a 1 ½ year old, 3-year-old, and 6-year-old, who yesterday continued their day blissfully unaware of the carnage, terror, and unspeakable acts of violence that occurred miles from their home, but in the very country they live in. A country, in which shootings – mass shootings, are becoming painfully more real, and happening at an alarming rate. Since graduating from Virginia Tech in 2006, a year prior to the VA Tech shooting, I can recall one too many mass shootings occurring after Tech’s, which at the time was the single worst mass shooting in history. That statistic now has a new home in Las Vegas.
I’ve seen so many posts over the past 24 hours with unanswered questions - why did this happen, how did this happen, and a number of them asking – what do I tell my kids? What do I say to my children? And for me, right now, in this moment, my answer is: nothing. I will tell them nothing of this horrible act of violence. I know there will be a day in which I won’t have this choice. Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, I know my kids will be exposed to violence. Not just violence on TV or through history books reading about events like yesterday, or Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook, and so on. But they will likely be exposed to violence by another violent crime of this nature happening in real time, requiring immediate discussion with young minds grasping at a way to understand how and why these things happen. It sounds ominous, it sounds pessimistic, but it’s a sad reality I know I will face again as a parent.
So, yesterday I didn’t take a moment to tell my kids that something bad happened, or talk to them about bad people in this world who do bad things. Instead I read the news in another room. I cried in solitude. I spoke with other adults trying to once again make sense of the news reports and ask the question “when does this end”? - And then I put aside chores and held my children, and we sang happy songs together, and I made sure their world kept spinning in the only way they know it does right now. Carefree, without worry, and full of love.
I decided yesterday that my children get to stay children. The heartbreaking and tragic events of Las Vegas were not going to take away anything from their childhood. The violence and cowardly acts of one man were not going to change the innocence of my children. The unimaginable loss of life and terror inflicted were not going to change my children’s beliefs that their mommy and daddy keep monsters away. I decided that the pain, sadness, and fear of the Las Vegas shooting were for me to take that day, and me alone. My children would remain untouched and unscathed by such senseless tragedy.
I know it won’t always be like this. My kids will have moments in their lives that will change them forever. There will be a day, an event, that shows them there is evil in this world. My heart breaks thinking about this day knowing I cannot stop it from happening. Mine was watching the Towers fall on Sept 11th. I live with a fear and sadness, that prior to that day I never had. My children too will have a day like I did, on that day in 2001.
As parents, it’s hard to know when the time is right to have these conversations. Our instinct screams protect them! Shelter them! But eventually our kids will come to know that along with the good comes the bad. And the bad can be really bad sometimes. I’m ready for this conversation, although I know I won’t have the answers they will want or need. But this conversation, for me, for my kids, was not meant for yesterday, and I sure hope it’s not meant for anytime soon. I let my kids fall, I let my kids fail, but when it comes to protecting their hearts I’m not ready to let them hurt too much.
& Vegas, just like every other awful act of terror, hatred, violence, and loss of life - hurts too much.
My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all affected by this shooting, and special praise to any parents, caregivers, and adults out there having to engage in difficult conversations with young ones about this tragedy.
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