Parenting Through Tragedies


Parenting Through Tragedies

by Matt Gaudreau,
Communication Children Parenting

Every time a tragedy happens (and they happen all too often these days), it really reminds me to not take anything in life for granted. Those things you have today can easily be gone tomorrow. It is a harsh reality of the world we live in. What is an even harsher reality is knowing that my daughter will grow up in it.

When I was young, of course there were still dangers that existed. My mother always warned against the cliché of “getting into a car with a stranger” and I was 15 when Columbine happened. The real fact of the matter is that there has always been danger and violence around us. It has always existed. So the question becomes, why didn’t I ever really think about that growing up, but can’t escape it now?

I want to try to stay out of the political realm of the issue, so let’s instead focus on the media saturation. I didn’t have 800 channels on my tv growing up. I wasn’t really allowed to watch much television and the shows I did get to watch were certainly not the evening world news. The internet was also in its infancy in terms of wide-spread usage and my cell phone did two things: Made calls and let me play Snake (thanks, Nokia). I am pretty sure you can see where I am going with this. I did not have too much exposure to in-depth and constant news coverage and what was happening in my country and around the world. Sure, I generally knew what was going on, but I didn’t have a constant contact with the media that we can and do have these days. I did not constantly have people throwing news, thoughts, ideas, information (whether true or not) around. Does this mean nothing was happening? Of course not. What it does mean, is that I was not constantly bombarded with sensational stories or murder, rape, assault, war, violence and the like.

This brings me to the larger picture. These stories are everywhere you look these days. I have read plenty of statistics that show crime is down all across the country, but you wouldn’t know that from what you see and hear on a daily basis. Have there been terror attacks before? Of course there have. Are they happening more often? Yes. Do we want to live scared every day? No. Is that hard to do when it is all you hear about and especially when you have a child or children or a family (or even if you don’t for that matter)? Sure.

We live in a scary world. It doesn’t matter if the statistics show that violence is trending down, or that the odds of actually being in a terror attack are very low. The issue is, the chance still exists and is made to seem greater. It seems every other week we have a mass casualty event somewhere (in this country or abroad). We constantly hear about the bad guys wanting to kill us, and yes, sometimes they do. As a new-ish father (my daughter just turned 3, so I don’t know where the cut-off for calling myself a new father is), it is difficult to look at where this world could be heading and not want to shelter her from everything. If I do that though, then the bad wins.

I want my daughter to grow up with a realistic view of the world. Right now, that view includes terrorism, violence and a whole slew of other crimes that are constantly thrown in your face. She needs to know that there are mean people out there. People who want to hurt other people. People who want to do bad things. There are even just people who are not nice and can’t handle human interaction without bullying or trying to make people feel bad about themselves. Guns exist. Bombs exist. Plenty of other weapons exist. Deceit exists. Hateful speech exists. I do not want her growing up thinking the world is a perfect, peaceful place and that everyone is great. This “find the good in everyone and everything” rhetoric is simply not true. Some people just don’t exist for the right reasons. My feeling is that you need to know that in order to be able to live a great life yourself. If you are so jaded or aren’t taught there is evil, then if and when something happens to you, it is going to cause a major jolt in your life.

I may sound cynical and depressing at this point. You may even be thinking, this guy’s kid is going to grow up with a dark and awful view of the world and never trust anyone or anything. Here’s the twist. Realism breeds strength. Once you know the evil that exists, you can learn how to deal with it and exist to your fullest extent and being in that same world. That is strength. Is there a chance something bad might happen to you? Of course. You can’t just go through life thinking that though, no matter what the media throws at you. We can’t as a country and as a culture, be scared to do something about it. We can’t be scared to fight back. We can’t be scared to just live our lives. There is such a thing as being vigilant and keeping a keen eye without it impacting your everyday life. If you are realistic about everything, hey, maybe the world is not so scary. You have to know the possibility exists for evil, but also know that you can’t live life hiding or running away.

That is how I want my daughter to grow up. Realistic and strong. She needs to know the terrible things that exist out there, but she also needs to know that she can exist alongside those terrible things and hopefully never cross paths with them. She needs to be able to weed out the bad people from the good; the people who will help her from the people who will hurt her. She needs to be able to see something before it happens and to be able to navigate tricky situations to the best of her ability. My job is to arm her with the knowledge and the power to do all of that.

The world might be a scary place right now, but it is not like we can’t make it better. It is not like we have to live scared. We can make it better just by not living scared. Just by not buying into the fact that everything is terrible and dark. There is plenty of beauty and good in this world to counteract the ugly and the bad. The television and internet media rarely will tell you about the good and you probably won’t see it on an everyday basis, but it is there. When you see it, you will be filled with hope. That is what I have for my daughter. Hope. When you see hope, you will realize there is beauty and good. That is what I want my daughter to be. Beautiful, good and hopeful.

That might not be an absolute that I can teach her. She may have to experience it for herself. The best I can do it make sure she is prepared and realistic. She deserves to have a clear view of the world we live in, good and bad. What she really needs to know, however, is to live her life around that, the way she wants and what will come will come. The good will come and if more people do that, the good will certainly overcome the bad.