“What was the world like when you were a kid and there weren’t mass shootings all the time?”
The question hung in the air on a dark, rainy Saturday made more somber by an attack on a synagogue that left 11 dead and more injured.
My 15-year old son was sincere in his inquiry which I found even more distressing. This was my most creative, imaginative kid. The one who sits in his room and draws for hours. Yet, he was unable to conjure up an image in his mind of a world where mass bloodshed and shootings are not the normal course of events.
This is the burden our children carry every day. Nagging fear follows them, shadowing their childhood and robbing them of the naiveté that is rightfully theirs.
My answer was simple… I told him that we were blissfully unaware. We went about our days without fear. Without sheltering drills or much in the way of emergency preparedness other than fire drills. Our big concerns were looking both ways before crossing the street, making it home before the streetlights came on and not hitch hiking.
Our innocence was intact.
A childhood as I described it, seemed foreign to him and he was clearly envious of such an existence. I went on to talk about the lack of wall-to-wall news coverage which shielded us when I was younger as well. I recalled the shooting of President Reagan and the rarity of extended coverage of such an event. It was the first time I was aware that regular programming could be suspended for the news on every channel.
As I spoke, it struck me that he had likely pondered this notion for some time, as young men are not prone to spontaneously exploring deep topics with their mom. Our most extensive discussions usually involve fantasy football or sports stats.
It was a sobering moment when I realized I had no solution that could bring hope to my son. I don’t know the answer to the bigger questions of why this happens or how to stop it.
I do know that I have the power to offer my children the example of love and acceptance to all we encounter regardless of our similarities and differences.
And maybe, just maybe, when my sons look back on their childhood they will remember more about the world we tried to create inside our house than the world that loomed outside our door.