We haven’t been watching the news much lately. It started when Malaysian Flight MH17 was shot down from the sky. How do you explain something so mind boggling and reprehensible to an eight year old? How do you explain that because the wreckage looks like that there aren’t any survivors? How do you explain why someone would shoot a plane of innocent people out of the sky?
Then the violence escalated between Israel and Gaza and bodies were everywhere, women keening, centuries of complicated conflict couldn’t be summed up for two young boys. I couldn’t even begin to formulate the questions not to mention the answers. And so we turned it off. The hubby and I discussed the news in whispers while the boys cleared the table or when we passed each other in the hallway during bath time or after curious ears were tucked into bunk beds or simply not at all.
This week, Robin Williams. No mention of his death goes without details of the brutality of his desperation. How do you explain to children the subtleness of depression and how it lies and badgers until finally the afflicted take the only method of control they feel available and act in the most final way? How do you explain that the Genie is gone because of a horrible disease, a disease that affects family members they love, without inciting the fear that those very family members might fall victim to believing the lies, too?
And now Ferguson. What to say to my boys about Ferguson? How do you explain to your white children the inconceivable grief of Michael Brown’s parents who have no true explanation as to why their child’s light is now extinguished from this world other than the fact his skin is darker than my sons’? How do you hold up the lessons they learn in school about Harriet Tubman and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Martin Luther King, Jr., and separate bathrooms as antiquated concepts when that type of racism and frustration and stereotyping is still endured by legions today? How do you begin to explain that the police are meant to help people, not arrest reporters and blindly throw tear gas at protests that were yet to turn violent?
How can I burst their anyone can do anything they want bubble with the pin of life’s realities?
How do I explain that the reason they have lockdown drills in school is because people with malice in their hearts bring guns and shoot children?
How do I make them understand that as white males they are made lucky simply by their genetics, but that their character will determine whether they earn it?
How do I ensure that they feel safe and secure in a world that some days seems anything but?
How do I explain all of this when it is so difficult for me to comprehend?
Right now, I don’t explain it. I leave it all at the door with the muddy shoes and collection of rocks that fill my boys pockets after an afternoon walk. I help with homework, throw practice pitches in the park, push the swing, read stories and snuggle. After they go to bed, I let the real world back in. I read twitter feeds of reporters arrested in Ferguson and blogs by those battling mental illness trying to drown out the lies depression shouts by sharing their experiences, fears and vulnerabilities. I check on my sweet, quiet, sleeping boys before I go to bed and relish in their contentment, the twisted blankets, the damp foreheads of sleep imagining the brilliant, technicolor dreams that dance in their head. I kiss their little bodies, resisting the urge to climb in bed with them, to hold them physically closer to my heart in an attempt to shelter myself from the torment of the real world swirling around us.
Dawn comes and the hubby and I wake resistant children, send them off to school and pray that another day finds them well. As we gather at the table for dinner each evening, I take comfort in our little guy’s daily proclamation that “Today was the best day ever!” For indeed, each day with them safe and happy in the cocoon of a world their father and I create for them is the best day ever.
So yes, I’m sheltering my kids from the news.
There’s plenty of time for them to understand the real world. For now, I want them to believe that the world is compassionate, fair and attainable. I’ll use this time now not to scare or intimidate them with the realities of our world, but arm them with the patience, understanding, grace and love they’ll need to navigate this world of chaos and make it better.