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Shootings and tragedies and parenting in the midst of it

I didn't know what to say after the Clackamas Mall shootings. We have the radio on a lot, and maybe my kids are just used to tuning out stories about gun violence -- BBC shares a story of an explosion or shooting death almost every day. My kids didn't say a word, and I felt I should say something before they went back to school because maybe other kids would be talking about it. I said it plainly. "There was a shooting, and two people died, and people are really sad and scared." They didn't ask any questions. No "why would someone do that?"

I hope this is because of fiction; because we read a lot of books with rather strong evil vs. good storylines, and watch TV shows like Dr. Who and Merlin in which people do die, we talk a lot about what motivates people to do terrible things. It's often the small things that take the most explanation, but we talk a lot about fear, fear of change, fear of difference, fear of being found out to be a fraud, fear of punishment, fear of facing one's own shortcomings, and how terrifyingly motivating that can be. How people shut themselves down to the hurt they are causing others and act protectively in terrible ways. How people want to be loved and feel connected, and when they don't they act out. How a lifetime of being hurt in some way -- physically, or being abandoned, or being treated with indignity and contempt -- can change someone into an unrecognizable mess of hurt. How they take power back any way they can.

That's the story of Lord Voldemort, and the story of Uther, and the story of many of the most violent evil characters in fiction and history. It's why I turn to fiction so often to tell my story.

I, again, don't know what to say about this latest tragedy. It's on all the radio shows and on all the Facebook statuses. I feel like I can't escape it and so my kids shouldn't either. Should I? Should I get out a guide to how to talk to your kids after a tragedy? Should I, like so many people are saying eloquently, look for the helpers? Should I do what I can myself? Should I work on this web site, whose stated goal is to help you find community? Should I work on this magazine, whose stated goal is to share the real stories of parenting so that we can all feel less alone? Should I retreat to fiction, pull up a good chapter of Harry Potter where Harry gets to exercise that power we all think we lack? Should I give kids power in my own fictional work?

I think I want to do all of that. I feel the only power I have in this is to tell stories and to help other people share theirs. I feel that the cure for violence is love and the cure for isolation is seeing another person through their history. I feel the cure for sadness is knowing you're not the only one feeling sad. I feel the way to heal from everything is to reach out and be together; not to draw in and be apart.

What do you do? Where is your power? How will you exercise it? Is there a cure?

 

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I've been actively trying to keep all news of these events from my kids. I don't see the benefit in them knowing that this type of thing can happen. My son's school has safety drills, my daughter's daycare does everything they can - it's really just something that they don't need to find out about. I generally do keep violent news from them - I don't play NPR in the car while they're in there, I don't watch the news, I keep the ugly parts of the newspaper away from them. Once my son is 12 or so and needs to start following current events for school we can talk about it, but right now they're still little, 9 and 4, and it's not necessary.

I just think it's really interesting that no one (save one person) has commented on this. I guess writing about our thoughts and feelings makes it too real, and the past two weeks, we have had way too much of real. Maybe it's good that the focus right now is on what is good, and what we can change to make things better.

I tried commenting previously, but it said the post was closed to comments. Anyway...

I haven't said a word about this tragedy to my kids, aged 5 and 7. Their shoulders are just too small to hold the emotional burden of the Sandy Hook event. My 7 year old in particular would have a very hard time with it. I figure if it's incomprehensible to me, an adult with life experiences, it would be impossible for a child to place into context.

As far as reacting though, I do think we need to keep things in perspective. I've seen news reports where parents are saying their children will no longer attend any school events. ummmm.... You can't have a knee jerk reaction and have kids living in a bunker, learning a life of fear. It's a fine line to draw. As with most parents after tragedies like this, I am appreciating my children with more patience and love than ever thought possible. I am more aware of surroundings, and safety issues. However, being aware and overacting are two different things.

My heart really does go out to all those affected directly by this tragedy. I just can't imagine.

Kids will definitely be discussing at school after the break. What will you say then?

@Anon... My kids actually had school last week, and I did second guess my decision late Sunday night before sending them to school, just three days after the shooting. I was ready to talk to them about it at first mention. I was shocked and pleased to find that most parents at our school had made a similar decision for their younger children. And, teachers did not bring it up. So, my children actually never heard anything about it, even at school. And, I did ask some pointed questions to my 7 year old in particular. It didn't come up, and I am confident that she hasn't heard about it.

I hear that it did come up with the older kids, particularly 4th grade and up. Everyone knows what their own child can handle. I am confident that we made the right decision, but obviously as they grow, the decisions of what and how much to tell them will change.

My 5th grader was the only kid in his class who didn't know about it that Monday when school resumed. I felt bad that I hadn't prepared him, but figured there would have been other kids who didn't know. When I talked to him about it at the end of the day, I apologized for not letting him know and he said he was glad I didn't tell him and didn't want to know any further detail because it was all so horrible. My 7 year old has no idea as far as I know.

We try to live our lives without fear and with as open hearts as we can. And while I certainly can't save every abused, neglected, or shunned child who might grow up to terrorize and kill, I continue to hold hope that there are kids in our midst (perhaps mine?) who can lead us to peaceful and loving world.

I've returned to this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. several times in the last few weeks, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

My son is in 4 th grade and all the kids were talking about it as well. I was glad we discussed it so that he didn't hear it the first time at school. News travels fast on the playground and between kids of various grades. I love that quote cc but it is actually Buddha from the Dhamapada and Rev. King quoted him.

No one in K, 1 or 2 was talking about it before break at our school, from what I could tell. All the parents I talked to were keeping tvs and radios off and avoiding the topic. All the advice I saw was try to shield the young ones. Seems to have worked so far. Thankful for my community.

The standpoint I take is this: I don't want to unnecessarily burden and scare my young kids with details, but rather use it to teach them how to react in that moment-what to do and what NOT to do when something like this strikes again. Because it WILL happen again. Hopefully not in our kids' school,as any parent feels. Just like the next earthquake or natural disaster that happens we want to be prepared. Not sticking our heads in the sand pretending this shooting was just some random event that will never happen again or that things will get better. They won't. That's the reality of it.

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