Tragedy didn't used to make me feel so fragile. Before you were born, my universe was tightly knit up within my own body. But you exist, a vibrant chaotic life outside of the confines of my arms, and tragedy always makes me zero in on you. When Russian planes crash, I am breathless at the thought of parents and children separated from each other forever. When bombs explode, I think of the funerals marked with tiny coffins. When Twitter (it was a thing when you were little) explodes in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, my overactive imagination creates nightmare scenarios flavored by current events. What if, while we were getting ice cream, while we were at an arena, while we were walking as a family, the worst happened?
And then, I feel the guilt of a voyeur because my panic and imagined grief are pale shadows to the real loss that thousands and thousands of families are actually living through. You are alive, sleeping safely in your bed, dutifully doing your homework. Too often grownups use the tragedies of other people to soothe ourselves, so we can say "I'm so thankful we AREN'T....". I'm sorry for that.
I think this is the most difficult part of being your mom: I am audaciously aware of how tenuous our lives truly are. I have a duty to raise you into the reality of this world, but the temptation is so great to shield you from the evil of humankind. I could so easily turn your attention away from the struggles of nations, the moral bankruptcy of politicians, the blind xenophobia that creates categories of "us" and "them". I could distract you with the sugary, sparkly, and easy parts of our world, try to convince you that they are all that truly is. But then, I'd be failing you. I must help you confront the terrors of this life with integrity and seriousness. Sometimes, the people we trust never deserved it. Sometimes the future we wanted cannot be ours. Sometimes, evil seems to win. This is real. This is our world.
I would also be failing you by only telling you stories of failure, pain and bloodshed. It would be a sin for me to constantly turn your eyes towards abuses of power, of exclusion, of loss and pettiness. For every story of evil, there are stories of sacrifice, of love that blots out hate, of justice where only injustice was before. The world we live in is full of people so good that they change the fate of nations. You can be one of them. I believe it.
So, I hope that you'll forgive me if in-between practicing your sight words, I slip in quick lessons about how we should love one another. I hope you'll give me grace when, on rides to school, I speak with you seriously about how sometimes, not even policemen do the right thing. I hope you'll be patient with me when I cry about the deaths of people I do not know and try to teach you why the lives of people we've never met matter so much. I hope that one day, when you're confronted by socially acceptable diet-racism, you'll remember that time when I taught you it was Christian to say #BlackLivesMatter.
Soon I will pick you up from school, and you will regale me with stories of recess and lunchtime and your friend Miranda who alternately is very awesome and very naughty in class. For now, you know very little of the brokenness of all things. But I promise, my funny boy, that I'm going to do my best by you. You deserve it. And so does the world that you can help heal.