Our 7-year-old tromped down the stairs just after the sun came up this morning. Bed head, sleepy eyes. “Where’s Dad?” he asked. It’s usually his dad awake in the wee hours making breakfast. “He had to go to work,” I said, hoping to leave it at that.
His dad, who works in the news business, whispered to me this morning that he had to go to the office. The sun wasn’t up yet, but more than 50 people were dead from another mass shooting.
“I will never let them go to a concert,” was my first silly thought. I knew that was laughable. I know that my 7- and 10-year-old sons will go to a concert, that thinking otherwise won’t protect them from whatever might be.
And I knew I’d struggle, again, to explain their world to them.
“What did Dad have at work so early?” the 10-year-old asked. “A meeting, I think,” I stumbled as I considered what to say, later.
But it’s not just this mass carnage today. It’s trying to explain to the 10-year-old why people are stuck in Puerto Rico, dying. It’s explaining to our sons why people are taking a knee. Charlottesville. White supremacists. Disasters both natural and man-made. Very man-made.
Our morning went on and their jokes seemed funnier today. Or maybe it’s that I was paying closer attention because I know what is here, right now, in this kitchen, is the beautiful part. Two brothers being the goofy boys that they are. The outside can stay there for now.
I will do what all the experts say. I’ll keep the TV news off. The newspaper will be tucked away until later. But I also know they will hear just enough, and they will ask questions. Like so many parents, I will have to come up with something to tell them. Again.
I watch the 10-year-old lug his trumpet case and backpack to join his gaggle of friends, on a beautiful autumn day, all of them so hopeful. His brother runs to a friend for a hug that is more wrestling move. The crossing guard greets me and says he is going to appreciate being alive today. We hear you, Mr. Eddie.
I stay for a minute outside, watching the second-graders happily filing in to school, listening to their shouts and laughter. This is my mantra: This is good. There is good. I remember to breathe, and wonder what to say.
I think back to an evening at the beach a couple of summers ago, when the boys were specked with sand, soft sweatshirts enveloping their tanned faces. I saw a horseshoe crab and picked it up to show them what was underneath. “Wow, Mom’s so brave,” one of them said. I looked at my husband and laughed. I am not. But I was so glad they thought so.
I am not brave today. Yet.
There are too many days, as the news seeps into my brain, when I don’t feel very brave. My now 10-year-old noticed when the flag was lowered after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Why, he asked me. I hesitated. “I don’t know,” I said as I rolled my eyes at myself in my mind. He was too young, so soft. But he was also aware of something. He always is. I couldn’t even explain it to myself, though. How could I explain it to him?
And again, I can’t explain any of this. I can’t explain it, especially, because I know nothing will change. That is today’s other horror.
So what will I do after news like this? I will greet my boys when work is done and school is over. I will sit with them at dinner, enjoy a round-robin of roses and thorns. We will talk about our little world, look at the good in the lives that touch us. I will laugh at their silliness, get frustrated with homework, toss a few baseballs before the sun goes down.
And I will remind them that there is good in the world and it needs to be them, me, us. Being a parent today is a big job. We have to raise the good ones.