I woke up this morning to the sight of my little boy sleeping peacefully. The terrible events that unfolded last Friday gave me a renewed sense of gratitude for his safety, but also the recognition that I will never be able to protect him from all the bad in life. Terrible, unspeakable things happen on rough city streets and in sleepy, picturesque towns. And there is nothing I can do to guard him from experiencing bad things in life. One day, he will face the troubling realization that life is full of uncertainty, unfairness, and loss.
For the most part, our society recognizes childhood innocence as something sacred—something to be protected lest it be disturbed too soon. We understand that childhood innocence is fleeting and the rest of life exposes us to a host of sad, scary, serious things.
Although I can’t wait to share the amazing and beautiful parts of the world with my son as he grows, I am sad that the good things of life must go hand-in-hand with the hard parts: fear, disappointment, temptation, evil. I know my job as a mom is not to shield him from these things, but to prepare him to face the tough stuff when the time comes. And somehow I already know that it will be more difficult for me to witness his pain than it is for me to experience it myself. Such is the condition of parenthood, I’m learning.
Being a parent has allowed me to experience the deepest and most profound love I could ever imagine. But it has also made me more vulnerable than I have ever been before. Truly, my own heart now exists outside of my body.
It is through this new lens of parenthood that I viewed the recent tragedy, and why it is even more earth-shattering for me to think about. I can’t imagine the kind of pain those families and that community is grappling with. My thoughts and prayers, however insignificant they may be, are sent the way of all those suffering from this trauma.
My hope is that our children whose innocence has been shattered by this and other awful events in life will also be fortunate enough to perceive the good that coexists with the bad. That they will remember the fear and the loss, but also the courage of those they loved, the strength of their community, and the sense of commonality that tragedy brings out among us.