I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.
My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.
My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?
I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”
I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.