I was raised by the cancer whisperers.
You know...those people who think it is in your best interest to shield you from any bad news, death notices or catastrophe warnings. Everything is always fine and you never need to concern yourself with what is going on.
This made for a pretty quiet existence, however it also left me a bit unprepared for the emotions that come like a tidal wave when something bad really does happen. The thought may have been 'this is for her own good,' but the reality was, my own good needed to know that sometimes bad things happen and it OK to know that so you can mourn.
I promised myself that when I had my own children, I would do everything I could to be more open and honest with them about the downside of life. I wanted them to hear things, ask questions and not be left wondering quietly and fearfully to themselves. The older my kids get, the more this becomes a challenge.
My 7-year-old son still spends most of his time in his little halcyon world of lego building on the floor and a cup of chocolate milk being the highlight of an afternoon. He does, however see and hear a lot (and kids notice everything you don't want them too!) He is old enough to witness but not old enough to always understand, and that brings questions. Those questions open a door for me to answer in a way that fulfills his need to know without overwhelming him. That is sometimes harder than I ever thought it would be.
And then there is my 11-year-old daughter. She is not only old enough to witness a great deal more, but she is also old enough to understand a lot more. With that understanding comes reality and acceptance and growth. Sometimes the conversations we have are not very different from the ones I have with friends my own age. This is both enlightening and downright frightening.
This week has brought about new challenges in the discussions I have had to have with my kids. As always, I have done my best to answer without overwhelming. And, especially in the case of my daughter who understands the reality of what can happen in our world. I do my best to point out any possible positive angle I can, even in the wake of great sorrow. We have talked about heroes who come out in times of great need. We have talked about the stories of strangers who save lives, throw themselves into the line of fire, and do everything they can after the fact to help people in need whether they know them or not. We have talked about the fact that for every person who does something horrible, there are so many more out there who, every single day, do something, even something small, to help someone else.
I want my kids to know that sometimes in life, things will happen that test your ability to get up and face the world with a smile on your face. But, in the wake of sadness there comes a second wave. That is the wave of appreciation for what still exists - hope, love, freedom and the beauty of another day. I also want my kids to know that good will always outweigh bad. We all only have one life to live, but we share that life together in this world. If we put out good each and every day eventually, there will be no choice but to have it overtake the evil. I want my kids to be part of the good but ready for the bad, because only in that way can they truly lead the meaningful life I want for them.