When I was working in the television industry, as head of program scheduling, if a national or world-wide tragic event occurred, it was my responsibility to decide whether or not to pull any regularly scheduled programming content that might be deemed as inappropriate. Were there any movies that showed gratuitous bombings? Were any comedians joking about terrorist acts that, in the wake of a tragic event, might come across as insensitive? Although I won’t be involved in that exercise today, I have decided that some sort of personal editing of my blog content is necessary. Not, certainly, because the content itself is inappropriate, but rather, to take pause, as a show of respect…to yesterday’s horrific bombing in Boston.
These tragedies seem to occur with such regularity now. It was only four months ago that we heard of the unfathomable massacre of children in Newtown, CT; less than a year has passed since the Aurora, CO theater shootings. Do these events penetrate just a little less deeply with each occurrence? Do we risk becoming hardened to national disasters as they become more commonplace? And what about our children, who, with some frequency, listen as their parents try to find the right words to tell them about yet another scary thing that bad people do?
This time, I just couldn’t do it. I took the cowardly way out, and did not tell my son what happened. I should have. He’s 13, and will surely hear about it from his friends, teachers, or Facebook, if he hasn’t already. I don’t know why I chose this route, but let me tell you, this is not something that gets easier to do as your kids get older. You think it should, because they have the capacity to understand, and it’s not the first time they are hearing that bad things happen in this world. For me, it gets harder because awful things happen with such regularity, and I hate to keep reminding my son that this is the world we live in. Part of me wants to continue to shield him from society’s atrocities, yet I know I can’t keep him in a protective bubble of goodness, either. We need to be aware that bad things happen, in order to protect ourselves against them, either physically or emotionally, and as difficult as that is, it’s a parent’s job to prepare their kids to live in the real world. Yesterday, I failed.
When I dissect my decision, I think it was my own weariness that held me back.
We had so recently sat down with our son to tell him that 20 children and six adults were murdered in their Connecticut elementary school. When that tragedy ensued, we didn’t have to think twice about whether or not we should tell him. This involved children, inside the safe haven of their school, only 60 miles from home, and there was no question that this devastating act had to be positioned to our child in our words, in our way. So why was dealing with yesterday’s incident in Boston so difficult to address? Honestly, I just didn’t have the heart to once again, say, yes, the brutal reality is that the world we brought you into is a scary place…where planes fly into skyscrapers, and children get massacred in their classrooms, and bombs can go off anywhere, anytime. Just this time, I wanted to protect my boy from the bad guys. I think it was the wrong decision. I know it was the wrong decision. But I’m tired of having to do this so often.
So, as I think about sending my son off to school today, I imagine he’s hearing the news from the kids on the school bus, or a teacher discussing it in class. One thing is for sure…before the end of the day, he will have heard.
I will make sure that we discuss it at dinner tonight. Yet, I will still feel the need to soften the edges. I will tell him about the quote by Mr. Rogers that I have seen all over the internet since yesterday:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”
I wish I could be as wise as Mr. Rogers’ mother. I wish I always had the right words at the right time. Next time, I will try do a better job. And the sad reality is, that, unfortunately, I'll be given another chance.
Prayers for Boston. Prayers for our country. Prayers for the world we live in.