When Parenting is the Most Difficult.

It’s a little after 6am as I sit down to write this. I don’t know when I’ll finish. I know what I want to say, but ‘how’ is the hangup.

The house is quiet this morning so far. Nobody’s awake but me. The only sound I can hear is the TV, which I put on for white noise.

My facebook newsfeed is crammed with news on the heart-wrenching attacks in Paris. There are also a few links from local friends regarding a recent murder that took place, claiming the innocent life of one of my old high school friends. More links- two parents arrested within the county on drug charges and child endangerment. Selling heroine out of a motel room in the presence of their four kids.

As I read these thing this morning, in the silence of my home, on the eve of my getting back into a job that puts me in close contact with things like this, I think of the two little boys asleep in their beds, surrounded by stuffed animals and adorable embroidered blankets.

At some point, the boys will become old enough and alert enough to want to know about these things. Malicious attacks. Senseless violence. They’ll want to know why. And as soon as this sort of thing is explained to them, as soon as they realize that this is what happens outside of the small, warm world they live in- something dies. Call it innocence if you want, I don’t know if it is or isn’t.

I don’t know when it happened to me. I don’t know when in my life I became aware that there are people out there who would do harm to others based on their faith, or take another human’s life over the few dollars in a cash register that it would take to fuel a drug habit. But I know that I’ll be partially if not completely responsible for the change that will happen in my two boys when it comes time for them to start asking questions.

We took them to the Empire State Museum in Albany a few months ago. There’s a massive display there on the 9/11 attacks. A shattered fire truck sits near a wall, melted and rusted relics in climate controlled cases, a video loop playing constantly. I’ve been there at least a half a dozen times and the place still causes my throat to stick. While not directly involved, I was 18 at the time, and had constant access to the TV and internet in college. The visions, and memories are starkly clear to me this day. My wife even more so- Her father was on his way into one of the towers before he was called back to lock down the range where he worked. Who knows how close he came to being another number.

Mini-Me has no idea what he’s looking at when we go there. The Narrator though, is a very clever kid, and starts to ask questions. We try to explain to him as best we can without overloading his circuits, but even as clever as he is, a lot of it escapes him, and I don’t mind that. Let him keep his views of the world for a while. It doesn’t hurt him.

The Paris attacks may not be something that I’ll have to explain to him today. As tragic and disturbing as it is to those of us who are connected to the whole world, and who realize the implications of such a coordinated and brutal attack, it isn’t going to hit home for a six year old. That being said, this incident is a reminder that  someday, somewhere, I’ll have to tell him.

I’ll have to tell them that there are people in the world who would seek to harm him because of where he lives. I’ll have to explain to him and his brother that there are people in their own country who would do violence towards others because of who they love. I’ll have to explain to them that safety isn’t as thick a blanket as they thought. That even in their own community, tiny, quiet, and peaceful as it seems, the drugs exist that cause people to murder strangers and neglect their friends.

This- I think is where parenting will become the hardest that it can be. When I need to take the necessary step and introduce my kids to the world around them. I realize that as difficult as this will be though, we are fortunate that they won’t be forced into exposure like the children in Paris or Sandy Hook, or Columbine or the countless others before they’re ready.

A few sleepless nights over a squalling infant doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. The stench of diaper pail isn’t really a problem after all is it?

No. Parenting is hard. It really is. But not in the way the uninitiated think. It has nothing to do with the physical exhaustion that comes from rearing a small child or two or three. You get used to that.
It has to do with the fact that we’re faced with the inevitable. They grow up, and we’re not only responsible for explaining to them that the world can suck- but for equipping them to deal with it, when at times I don’t even know if I’M ready to deal with it. I’ve got two human lives that I’m responsible for protecting right now, and responsible for preparing later on.

My heart aches for the victims and their families of the Paris attacks. I can’t stop looking at news coverage and updates, and every new bit of data makes my chest tighten a little more.
But there’s another lump in my throat this morning too- stemming from the fact that I have two little boys who will all too soon be thrust into the world where people seek to destroy each other for the most ridiculous of reasons, and that it can happen damn near anywhere.

As I finished writing this, Mini-Me woke up. The white noise of the TV has been replaced with cartoons. He’s already in the process of joyfully dumping all of the toys in the sheves onto the floor as he searches for one in particular. Someday I’ll have to expose him to the chaos of the world we live in and then teach him how to deal with it.

For right now though, I think I’ll go help him find what he’s looking for.

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