I hate days like today. I hate when the world spins off its axis and we all stand stunned, staring at our televisions or computer screens, holding our breath as bad news comes in, feeling equally numb and raw, feeling helpless and worried. I hate when tragedy strikes so close to home, too close for comfort. I hate when the news gets worse with each hour, when beautiful children become innocent victims, when I have to suddenly search for the right words in my turned-to-mush brain to share shitty news with my kid.
While my four year old may have sensed my shift in energy and needed extra cuddles to know things were alright, he ‘ll know nothing of the Boston Marathon attacks for years to come. He blissfully played with his toys after preschool while I periodically scanned the awful headlines online. But my 10 year old is a different story. When bad stuff happens, I’d much rather him talk through his questions, fears and hopes with his parents than hear everything secondhand from the TV or kids at school.
So I sat him down, which told him something was up. First, I had to explain what a marathon is. Then, I had to explain why the Boston Marathon is a big deal and why the finish line is a place of great celebration. And, finally, I had to tell him two bombs went off near that very finish line, that people got hurt, that people died. He had lots of questions – about the victims, about the perpetrators, about the buildings near the finish line (and how close is Fenway Park to it, anyway??), about broken glass, about blood, about rescue workers, about finding the perpetrators, about how skin regenerates when you get cut or even lose a limb like the Soul Surfer girl, about whether there are pictures or video of the bombs going off, about how bombs are made, about the chances of the bombers coming to our neighborhood, too. I didn’t have answers for everything. I mean, who really does?
And then, my little man asked a question that floored me. “Well, the good news is that more people didn’t die, right?”
At first, I was appalled…sure that Spy Kids and Nerf guns have desensitized him to violence and death so much that there’s not a sympathetic bone left in his growing body. I had failed as a parent and here was the proof! He saw the combination of worry and horror on my face.
“Well, I just mean it could have been worse,” he stammered. “I mean, those bad guys aren’t here. And there have been tornadoes that killed more people, so at least it wasn’t a tornado. And the hurt people got to go to a hospital for help. I guess…I just wanted to think about something good.”
My worry melted. Tears took its place. Yes, of course. Think about something good. Words I have said to him so many times in so many ways. Holy crap, I thought. The words actually sunk in – and here he was, reminding me: remember that good exists, Mom, even when and where bad stuff happens. Look for silver linings. Keep the faith. Be part of the light.
Find the good.