“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.