I was grabbing dinner items in Safeway Friday night with my youngest when out of habit I checked my Facebook feed while standing in line to check out. There were several posts that read: “Praying for Paris,” “My heart aches for Paris, “or some version of those sentiments. And of course I knew. Common sense dictated that there had been an attack on Paris the only question is whether it was a lone gunman or whether it was foreign born terrorism. My eight-year-old and I ended up sitting in the Safeway parking lot for about ten minutes listening to the NPR coverage of the coordinated terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 129 innocent victims and injuring more than 350.
I sat there with tears welling up in my eyes while my youngest played Minecraft on his iPad. I’m pretty sure not a word of the coverage sunk into his innocent little head. I have a theory that NPR sounds like Charlie Brown’s mom talking to most children: “waa-waa-waa-waaaa.” But I couldn’t change the station. I couldn’t drive. I just kept thinking: not again.
Not another senseless tragedy that as a parent I’ll have to talk to my children about. That I’ll have to try to explain the unexplainable. Because I’ve tried the bury-my-head-in-the-sand approach (what they don’t know won’t hurt them) but that just leads to gross misinformation learned at school or overheard and disjointed snippets when my husband and I talk about the latest tragedy. What the children learned on their own about Sandy Hook because I thought I could shield them taught me to not leave life lessons to the playground. I’ve learned to keep it short and sweet and stick to the facts. Up to this point it’s worked well.
But Friday I just felt defeated. How was I going to put into contact that 129 families lost people they loved? Because as a mom that’s how I view the world – What if it were my child. What if my child had gone to see a metal band and instead ended up being executed? What if my child had been studying abroad in Paris (what a dream come true) and instead of coming home with lifelong memories of her amazing experience she came home in a body bag? Crushing. Hard to breathe. Every mom’s sick but compulsive “what if” game.
I feel selfish and small somehow for boiling such an enormous tragedy down to me and my family. But I think that before we look at what we can do differently, how we can learn and grow, before we can even formulate an appropriate response we need to make it personal. Because making it personal makes it actionable. It gives us the resolve to stand up to bullies and cowardly terrorists. It gives us the courage to say not this time. You haven’t broken me, you haven’t won. Not this time.