"It's just another day for you and me in paradise..."

I'm really weird.

Okay, pick yourself off the floor since I know that statement really knocked you out of your socks. {sarcasm} And anyway, we know that I'm weird- really, the point of this post is that I am also emotional. I tend to have very high highs and very low lows that are juuuuuuuuuuuust short of being fully bipolar.

Just short.

My emotional bipolar-ish-ism tends to make me very vulnerable to things such as A Baby Story, Apollo 13, Nicholas Sparks novels, beautiful music, and watching the news. That last one being a doozy.

I remember my first understanding that the news wasn't just noise on in the background while my mom sipped her coffee in the morning and instead, gave us a window into the good and bad of the world. My parents did their best to shelter me from the bad as long as possible. I remember abruptly being herded into the bathroom when news footage was shown of a local politician who committed suicide in front of a crowded audience at a political event of some sort. My mom later explained that it happened so fast, her first thought was to kick me out of the room instead of turning off the TV! Either way, I knew I had missed something terrible, although I had no idea what.

I remember watching a DatelineNBC-type show maybe a year or so later. The story was about a child who had been beaten to death by her stepfather, and how a number of people and systems had failed her (the mother, also battered, who could not save her child, the teachers and neighbors who looked the other way, the child service workers who mishandled the reports they did manage to receive). I remember feeling increasingly hysterical as I watched this horrific story be told, and when the cameras showed a front step, piled high with stuffed animals, letters, and candles lit in this child's memory, I snapped. I remember asking my mother why people would leave these things- there was no longer a child to play with these gifts or finally read the messages of love in what I'm sure must have been a love-starved, painful life. I started shouting But why? Why give her bears when they couldn't even try to help her? I remember pacing between the living room and dining room, while my mother tried in vain to calm her highly emotional eldest daughter. I stood, hysterical, on one side of the dining room table while my mother stood on the other, screaming He was hurting her and nobody helped her! People pretended she was fine! They waited until she was dead to do anything for her! I had never heard of such a thing, I didn't know people did that to children.

So that high-stung, emotional kid grew up to be a high-strung, emotional adult who knows that bad things happen in the world. Columbine, 9/11, Virginia Tech, Hurricane Katrina- the events of the world unfolding on my TV screen. Even though I am better able to control my emotional outbursts, I still take the news pretty hard sometimes. Since yesterday, my eyes have been glued to the screen while my heart has been in Arizona, with the people hurt and killed in the shootings yesterday morning, again trying to understand why these things happen.

Of course now, it's not just why do these things happen or How are these people ever going to be okay again. Now, my own son plays innocently on the floor, the TV just noise in the background, blissfully unaware that there is anything awry in the world. All he's ever known is comfort, love. Will he have a moment like mine someday, where I will have to be the mother and calm my hysterical child who is leaning for the first time that terrible things happen in the world?

And what in the hell will I say to him?


Jen - LifeWithLevi said...

OMG - I haven't even thought that far ahead. If we have such a hard time dealing with the news ourselves, how can we explain it to our children? I don't have a good answer, but I'm right there with you on this one.

Jenn said...

Let me start by saying that I'm sorry if this is long.

The bigs are 10 & 11, and have come to enjoy watching the news as they get ready for school. Sadly, they are at an age of understanding where I don't enjoy the questions that come. Grace is very "out of sight out of mind", so she usually forgets what she watches 30 seconds later, but Billy ponders. Natural disasters are one thing. I have explained that (and I hope this doesn't offend anyone) God has a reason for everything, and while we may not understand why the Earth acts the way it does, it just does, and we can't do anything except evacuate when necessary and hope for the best when that's not possible. Having lived through Hurricane Andrew, we evacuate for EVERYTHING!! Now straight acts of violence, this one is tough and very frequent here in the south. About a year ago, a mom through her children off an overpass, but then chickened out when it came her time to jump. Billy couldn't understand why any mom would do that. I told him that there are things that go on in people's lives that make them do irrational things. That maybe this woman had no one she could talk to about her problems and became desperate to make them better. That for a small moment, maybe she thought what she was doing was for the best. (Deep down I say fry the bitch, but I can't say that to him) That we as humans have to go out of our way to be nice to everyone, especially those who are particularly mean or troubled or shy, because you can never understand what goes on inside each person's head. We have to hope that our acts of random kindness are enough to make them feel better and return the favor to someone else in need of a kind word or hug. Then came the little boy who hung himself in the nurse's bathroom in 4th grade while Billy was in 4th grade. That was the roughest conversation ever. It was not far from our house. I told him that when you see someone picking on someone else, you always have to stand up for them. Having a sister who is different makes this a given for Billy most of the time. I talked about how it can be hard to risk being picked on too, but that everyone needs friends and no one deserves ridicule. Billy is fortunate enough to be very persuasive and popular (punk) so he needs to use that power for good. And maybe his tiny acts of compassion and understanding for others will save their lives and encourage them to do the same for others. And while we may not save the world, we can put a good start to it. We have to be the example of what we want to accomplish. If he does what's right, then maybe those around him will do the same and it will spread like wildfire. When bad things like this happen we need to try that much harder to change the world around us and not give up hope in humanity. And there may always be bad things that happen, but we have to keep fighting the good fight!

Wow, that was really scatter brained. But I hope you get what I mean. Talking to kids about these things is hard and sadly we're having to have the tougher conversations younger and younger. Hold your babies tight, and lead by example (except when you're driving. It's perfectly acceptable to cuss people ut in traffic!)

Brie Latini said...

Jenn, thanks for your honesty! I guess you already had your "explaining" moment the way my own mom did! It's difficult to know exactly what to say and how to say it- the trials of being a mother, I guess! I just hope that I can continue to enjoy my son and my husband and my family without being constantly gripped with fear that any day could be the one some lunatic takes it all away from me for no reason at all. I don't want to live like that, nor do I want my son to, so hopefully I can figure out a way to lead by example!