Sometimes, social media is a happy place of funny and hilarious memes and adorable kitten gifs. Sometimes, TV news actually gives us hope and highlights good things done by good people.
But other times, far more often than any of us would like, the news is scary, and makes us want to pull our blankets up over our heads and just not get out of bed.
It’s on those days that I wake up and am instantly horrified, angered, and frightened at what I see during my morning scroll.
When bad things happen in the world, my thoughts always turn to my child. I worry about keeping him safe and sheltered in this new world of school lockdowns and mass shootings. As if that’s really possible. My little boy is 7 years old, and he’s pretty much oblivious to how ugly this world can be. But I know these days won’t last forever.
Although he casually toss out phrases like “lockdown drill,” the reasons why we practice what to do in an active shooter situations or other emergencies eludes him. “Scary” for him still means the zombie shows that papa and I watch after he’s (supposed to be) asleep. Or mama losing it over the LEGO on the floor and threatening to take away all the electronics.
Alexander has no real concept of true danger or the fact that there are twisted individuals who walk among us. He understand hurricanes and other natural disasters. We did tell him what happened in Paris nearly two years ago and he knows we live in a country next to Syria where there’s war I don’t think he really grasps what it means to be unsafe. I don’t think he really “gets” that the world we live in has so much danger and hostility and violence outside the confines of our home.
And do you know what? I’m okay with that.
On those days, when the news is intense and the headlines are heartbreaking, I keep the TV off. I have the luxury of doing that now, at his age, at least for a little while longer.
I am mindful about what he sees on my phone or on my tablet. I am extra careful not to have too many conversations about violence, mass shootings, or terrorism within his earshot. I’m on high alert to combat anything and anyone who wants to clue my 7-year-old in to the harsh reality that there are people out there who hurt other people.
You can say I keep him bubble wrapped, unapologetically.
Because the truth is, I don’t know what to tell him when the world gets heavy. I just don’t. And it makes me feel helpless, because I know in my heart I can’t really offer him protection if one day, the violence winds up on our doorstep.
I could tell him nothing bad is going to happen to him on my watch. I could shower him with assurances that mama will always, always keep him safe. Maybe I can tell him that as long as I’m around, nobody will harm him.
But I’d be a liar.
I can teach stranger danger. I can tell my child to pay attention during lockdown drills at school. I can let him know to look for the helpers or the mothers if something bad happens when I’m not there.
I can helicopter and monitor all day long, but I can’t offer my child any guarantee that some nut job with a gun isn’t going to find his way into his school and start open firing. I can’t offer him any kind of assurance that harm won’t come to us while we’re out shopping, playing at the park, or unloading shopping in front of our house.
Because evil is out there and I’m afraid of it. And I have no idea what the “right” way to explain this to my child really is.
So just like all of us, I’m fumbling my way through this, the best I know how.
I answer honestly when he has questions about something he has heard or overheard. I try to balance teaching him basic safety skills and good judgment with keeping him cocooned from the atrocities on the news or on my computer.
I don’t talk to him about every shooting that makes the news. Hell, if I can help it, I don’t talk to him about any shooting that makes the news, because I want to shield him from the fact that those kinds of things happen.
I often ask myself if that’s the right approach. For now, the answer is yes.
Because there will always be another shooting, another random and senseless act of violence. And saturating him with explanations about how the world sometimes just sucks? No. I don’t want that for my child.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I’m doing any of this right. I just know that pulling back the curtain on the ugliness that’s out there feels wrong, at least for now.
When the world gets heavy, I hug my little one tighter. I indulge him in small ways, like usually-forbidden slushies when out and about or sweets just before bedtime. I give him extra hugs and kisses and I hold him and tell them I love him.
I fight the urge to cancel plans, to keep him cocooned inside our house, where no one can hurt him. And yes, I know that nowhere is safe.
We can practice good risk management as parents, but we can’t avoid living life because we’re afraid of the bad guys. So instead, we go out. We live. We learn. And we try to forget that there are people out there who can snuff out bright lives in a blink just by squeezing a trigger.
My child looks to me to protect him. I know that I can’t always do that. For now, I protect him by keeping him bubble wrapped for just a little bit longer. Because I can.
There will come a time when he comes to me with deeper questions about something he’s seen in the news. I’ll take a deep breath and have an honest conversation. He’ll eventually figure out that I can’t protect him from everything and I’ll accept that he’s growing up.
What do I tell my child when the world gets heavy? I tell him I love him. I hold them tighter and love him harder.
Because that’s all I know how to do.
Model: Penny – Clothes: dress by Elsy
Photo credits: Evelyne Photography – www.evelynephotography.com
Evelyne is a professional photographer in The Netherlands. Based in The Hague, she specialises in shooting people and capturing personality. Though she works mostly in the The Hague area, Evelyne travels and shoots all over Holland. Boundaries do not exist between her portrait photography, corporate photography and commercial photography and she just launched her newest project ‘Kids by Eve’.