As a kid, I never felt afraid of anything other than a tremendous clap of thunder or a random unexplained noise in the house or trying something new for the first time or having to tell my parents I had screwed up. I never feared going to school. Or the mall. Or the movies. Or a concert. Or walking down the street.
Sure, as a well documented pre-worrier, I sometimes became unreasonably anxious before going to school. Or the mall. Or the movies. Or a concert. Or walking down the street…but I was in the minority and could never describe it as fear.
Kids should never know fear. Kids are supposed to feel and, even more to the point, be safe. At home. At school. At the mall. At the movies. At a concert. Walking down the street.
Only they do not.
Each morning, as I scroll through my phone, catching up on whatever might have happened overnight, I far too often learn of something terrible. Between natural disasters and political unrest and mass killings; it overwhelms me, seeping into my mood, my sense of self, my comfort in my own skin and the world that my children are growing up in. My body aches from the assault on our sense of safety. And haunting to me is the fact that as adults we are supposed to not only know how to cope on our own, but it is our job to be the protectors of our kids.
Only we cannot.
There is so much fury in the universe that our children’s daily lives are nearly unrecognizable and certainly incomparable to what ours looked like growing up. It feels like we are all just one stroke of luck away from horror. And, as we have learned time and time again: it can happen anytime, anywhere. We need to make it to stop.
Only we cannot.
Attending a concert will forever be associated with a man who, from what first accounts report, just snapped. His family has said that learning that the shooter was their brother was akin to “Mars falling to the earth”. This of a person who – as it happened, had a significant cache of automatic weapons packed away in his suitcase – could well have been standing next to you in the elevator heading to his room at Mandalay Bay. He might even be in the room next to you, but this time his target was the crowd below. You lucked out this time. Yep, we are all just one stroke of luck away from terror.
In the aftermath of each successive atrocity, we watch any news program or read any article or listen to any podcast and are told by the experts, professionals and politicians to continue about our daily lives, lest we allow “them” to win. Or “We need to come together as a country and comfort those who have been victimized.” “Everyone should write their senator, or attend a rally…hell, plan a rally, all in the name of making it all stop.”
Only it just keeps getting worse.
Perhaps most frightening to me is that all of this terror, destruction, cruelty, horror, distrust and anxiety is not only affecting our kids now, but will shape the rest of their lives. So many of the simple joys of life have been attacked violently enough to render them unworthy of the risk. Our world has evolved to the point that going to school or the mall or the movies or a concert or walking down the street could actually mark the end of your, or someone you love’s life. The world in which we live has become an unwelcome guest that we want to be (not so) gently escorted off the premises.
Only it is not that easy.
Is it an issue of mental illness? Or gun control? Or politics? Or devastating anger? Or complacency? Or hatred? Or fear of fear? No one seems to able to answer that question which, in turn, leads to even deeper depths of despair and, yep, fear.
I worry not only about today, but what tomorrow and the next day will bring. I wish I had a way to make the life my children have ahead of them feel safer, kinder, better.
Only I don’t.