There’s a saying that goes something like: “I wouldn’t change my children for the world, but I wish I could change the world for my children.”
When I woke up and turned on the news, I was saddened to hear about the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Saddened, but not surprised. Another day, another shooting. It made me think back to all the clubs that I’ve been to (well, years and years ago; haven’t done any partying in ages) No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine what I would have done if I’d been in a situation like that.
It brought to mind the shooting at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris in November 2015. How many concerts have I been to at small venues and little concert halls over the years? What would I have done if bullets started flying while I was singing and dancing along with some of my favorite acts?
And the bombings at the airport and train station in Brussels in March. I have friends who ride the Metro daily. One friend takes the train from DC to New York regularly for work. I can’t keep track of all the flights one of my friends takes for business because he’s hardly ever home. Another friend works on a cruise ship. What would I do if something happened to one of them?
A few days after Brussels, there was the shooting at the U.S. Capitol. My husband visits the Capitol regularly for work. When he first started the job last year, he was so excited to be working on the Hill again. I, however, was a little apprehensive. I remember nervously asking him, “So, um, what happens if… um… something… bad… happens while you’re there?” I fought back tears to even finish asking the question.
And then, there it was. News of a shooting at the Capitol. I texted my husband as soon as I heard. I didn’t know his plans for the day, I wasn’t sure of his schedule. Didn’t know if he’d be on the Hill or not. Thankfully, he wasn’t anywhere near there at the time. But what would I have done if something happened to him? If he had gone to work and didn’t come back?
You just don’t know. Crazy stuff like this happens (almost daily now) and there’s no way to really prepare.
Just a few weeks ago, a mom shopping with her teenage daughter had to fight off a kidnapper. In the middle of a store. In the middle of the day. In broad daylight. What the actual fuck?
The mom at the Cincinnati Zoo wasn’t prepared for her kid to wander off into the gorilla pit. The dad at Disney World never imagined his kid was going to get snatched by an alligator. The hundreds of parents who have lost children to heatstroke in hot cars didn’t think it would happen to them. I think about the friends (so, so many friends) I have who have unexpectedly lost babies due to miscarriage, illness, and SIDS. They never thought it would happen to them.
You just don’t know.
The worst thing that my husband and I have had to worry about with our one year-old son (so far, knock on wood) is when he busted his lip on the coffee table. I know it certainly won’t be his last injury, but it scared the crap out of us when it happened. We try to let him explore and toddle around on his own, but we’ve babyproofed the hell out of our place and don’t take our eyes off of him for more than a second or two… You can try to prevent them from getting hurt and you can try to protect your babies as much as possible, but still…
And you just don’t know when or where it will strike next.
But are we supposed to live our lives in fear? Am I supposed to be afraid to venture out into the world with my son, for fear that the shopping mall might be bombed, or that someone might try to snatch him out of the shopping cart at Target? That’s a shitty way to live. So what are we supposed to do?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.
I’m going to teach my son to be brave. I’m going to raise him to stand up to bullies. To stand up for kids that are getting picked on. To call someone out if they’re treating others unkindly. To tell me, to tell a teacher, to tell an adult if he sees someone being hurt.
I’m going to raise my son to be street smart and savvy. We may live in a nice, friendly neighborhood, but outside of our little suburban bubble, the world is not a nice place. He needs to know what to do in case of an emergency. Whether it’s at home, at the store, in the car, or on the playground.
I’m going to teach my son about the world. I’m going to teach him that yes, sometimes the world sucks. That bad stuff happens and that there are bad people in the world. But that for every hateful, evil person in the world, there’s a police officer, a soldier, a fireman, a medic, a teacher, a doctor or someone out there who is working to make the world a better place.
I’m going to model acceptance and love for my son. He’s going to learn that people are different. And that all people, no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, size, or disability deserve respect. I hope he learns that he can make a difference. I hope he knows that love is stronger than hate. Because it is. Isn’t it?