Using the same words each time I’m asked to make sense of nonsense has me reciting the same, tired lines when my kids hear about national tragedies.
Watching the evening news with young children is certainly a Good-Bad Dad experience. I love to see their reactions to the up-lifting stories of hope. I regret having to address tragedies like that which occurred in Orlando over the weekend.
During these times, I long for a “D.V.R.” button for life – allowing me to rewind and quickly change the channel before such horrific scenes are shown.
Unfortunately, what my kids have watched cannot be unseen and, as a result, it’s not good enough for me to dismiss the act as another example that “some people are just crazy.”
Talking to my kids about such tragedies starts by sorting out the heartache I feel for the victims, the anger I have for the attacker and the fear I harbor for the world I’m preparing my kids to enter.
When my children were younger, I thought it was my job to surgically carve my feelings out of answering their questions about world events. I’d talk more about the location of the incident and less about the impact. The Orlando killings have my explanations starting to change.
My kids need to know that I’m hurt and mad. That these situations need to stop and my actions as a parent need to ratchet up until they do.
I see numerous calls for “changing culture” and “ending these senseless acts.” As true as these words are, they are not helpful. In fact, they are un-empowering and characterize these acts as someone else’s problem to solve.
The most granular way of stopping this starts in my house – with the message my kids hear after seeing the President (and others) talk about the need for social change.
My kids need to hear that they are safe, protected and loved. The security they enjoy comes with a responsibility to help those people around us that aren’t as fortunate.
Creating a culture that helps people in need starts at home and can work outward.
This cultural change takes thoughtful listening, the courage to stand up and recognizing when others are needed when the type of help required exceeds that which I can provide.
For my kids, this means chatting with the “weird” kid in the back of the class. It looks like calling-out a classmate for using hateful language toward someone else. My kids should have the courage to bring in an adult when they see behaviors they cannot help correct.
For me, societal change means telling friends and neighbors that I will always have their back – the parenting version of being my brother’s keeper.
I should be creating relationships that rely on candor and empathy – not a manufactured grin and passing nod leaving soccer practice.
Instead of judging the overwhelmed mother at the grocery store, ask if I can hold the screaming infant while she pays. Parenting can be a communal effort where those equipped can help those who might not be.
In the wake of the Orlando tragedy, my anger and hurt can be helpful. They should drive better parenting, more courageous kids and a heightened sense of parental cohesion with my friends and neighbors.
No matter the efforts I make, though, nothing can bring back those lost already to madness and hate. Tonight’s lead news story will not change.
The real change I can help create starts at my front door. My family will pay our good fortune forward.
When each of us does, we help to create a community of servitude that is truly built to last.