I was having one of those days. Trapped inside the house all week with sick kids. I had a couple phone conversations with a friend that left me feeling raw and self conscious. I was replaying things I said. I was obsessing the way I tend to do, when I have nothing better to do. I was half ignoring my kids while doing laundry and reheating leftovers. I was messaging a friend on Facebook to make sure her family was safe after an attack in her hometown of Beirut. I was thinking about how I really wanted to take a shower. I was missing the point that my kids might be sick, but they were in a safe warm place.
Sometimes we get self-absorbed.
We miss the point.
And then my sister-in-law texts, “I’m so sad about Paris.”
I pull up the news on my phone and can only find snippets of information. A restaurant, a concert hall, men with guns, men with bombs. Sixty dead at the current count.
Damn it! Didn’t this just happen? Yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that? Weren’t we just here?
I have flashbacks of men with guns in fancy hotels and train stations in Mumbai. I remember Charlie Hebdo. I remember bombs in the London Underground. I think of men in my own country wantonly shooting people in movie theaters, shooting bullets into cars driving down the freeway. I see a lifeless baby carried out of a building in downtown Oklahoma City. I remember sarin gas in a Tokyo subway. I remember the morning I awoke in New Jersey with plans to visit friends in NYC that day; the morning of September 11, 2001.
Never made it into the city that day.
I put my kids to bed and I turn on the news. My children have never watched the news. They believe TVs play nothing but Paw Patrol and Curious George. My father comes to visit and asks, “Oh, you guys don’t watch the evening news?”
“No,” my husband says, “because the world’s a terrible fucking place and we have little kids.”
The world’s a terrible fucking place, and we have little kids.
Can you relate?
What’s the worst part of having little kids? Some days I would tell you it’s the drawer filled with plastic drink cups and their multitude of plastic straws and valves that no one seems to be competent at assembling. I could tell you it’s the utter loss of self that comes with motherhood. I could tell you it’s sleep deprivation, or whining, or the God Damn Hot Dog Dance.
But those would all be superficial silly-ass lies to make you laugh, to make you relate, to make you come back and read more of my writing.
The worst part? It’s the harm we do to them simply by creating them. It’s the harm of coming into existence. It’s their extreme angelic innocence, their pure love. Their belief that the world is filled with potential friends and wondrous cultures to explore. Their belief in the kindness of humanity. Their blind trust of adults.
It is sitting front row for the loss of their innocence, that is the worst part.
As a child innocence seemed useless to me. “What can I gain from being ignorant” was my world view. My father did a wonderful job of always being honest with me. During a zoo trip when I was seven the crowd giggled as they watched a male lion pace back and forth, following a little boy in the crowd with a ball. “Oh, he wants to play with the ball,” they laughed. My father leaned over and whispered in my ear, “He doesn’t want to play with the ball. He wants to eat the little boy.”
My parents let us watch the evening news.
As a child I felt at ease with adults. I also knew not to trust them. I knew they were fallible. I remember around age seven, watching the news one night and having to ask the question, “What does ‘molested’ mean?” Another question I asked that year was, “What’s a prostitute.” My parents answered both of these questions honestly. They always answered my questions honestly and I believe those answers kept me safe and prepared me for the adult world in a way many of my peers were not.
But now that I have my own children I only see the harm that comes from that loss of innocence. It’s counterintuitive as hell.
The world I have presented to my children is a very edited one. I know at some point I will have to let them watch the news. I will have to explain that this time the scary thing they’re seeing is not pretend. It is real, and it’s terrifying. At some point I’m going to have to show them the darkness. It was never my intention to shelter my children, but my son is four.
He’s four and he’s lucky enough to have the privilege of being sheltered. Please, please world just let me keep him here a little longer. I don’t know how a mother’s heart can withstand the torture of watching her son become a man. Her daughter, a woman. But I’m sure that pain pales in comparison to not watching them become one at all.
The world’s a terrible fucking place and we have little kids.
This is not a statement for parents. This is a statement for humanity.