22nd March 2017 has become another notable date in the calendar for London, a city already listed alongside Berlin, Paris, Brussels and many, many others. Unfortunately this is not the Lonely Planet guide of beautiful European cities to visit.
I was just as shocked as everyone else when I heard the news, and followed the live update with feelings of sadness. This was far from an isolated event, a hapless incident of genetic wiring gone wrong, no – this was a news story that we have seen far too often. I return home from work and hug my young children tightly, as they clamber all over me in ignorant bliss.
I felt frightened for them.
I want nothing more than to wrap them both up in the duvet and cuddle them forever. Keep them safe, protect them from the outside world and watch them grow up happily in their bubble of innocence. But it is impossible to want them to explore everything the world has to offer, while sheltering them from everything the world offers. This is the world we live in, the world they live in and it is wonderful as it is cruel.
Just like I have introduced potty training, the Naughty Step and ice cream, it dawned on me that it will be my responsibility to explain terrorism to my children.
My eldest is two and while she is far from able to comprehend the concept of terrorism, even at this tender age, she understands when people get hurt. She is starting to empathize. She know that it is not nice to hurt other people or animals. Hitting her brother means that he will get an “owwie” (and that she will end up on the Naughty Step). She understands that it is wrong.
We try so hard to bring up our children to be kind, loving and empathetic towards others. Treat others how you want to be treated. Love not hate. This is one of the reasons why parenting is so tough: to teach while being gentle, to guide while being kind, to nurture without oppression … is exhausting.
Every screen is splashed with the red of breaking news. Another needless attack, civilians injured, innocent people killed and indiscriminate slaughter. How can we explain this to our children? What kind of message is this sending out?
Wait! Did you read the headline where doctors and nurses ran from nearby hospitals to help those injured? Or the MP who stopped to administer CPR on an injured police officer?
The good in humanity is always present.
Tonight is for duvet cuddles and happily ever after stories, but when the time is right, I will explain the facts, even though they may be hard to hear. Far from taking away the teachings that you have worked so hard to instill, it will help establish the difference between right and wrong. They will struggle to understand why such things happen. Few people will ever be able to understand why. But they will eventually be able to see, think for themselves and make a decision to act.
If I could stop it all, I would, but I can’t. The next best thing I can do as a parent is to be honest, explain to my children in a meaningful way and show them all the good there is in this world. I will not be able to keep them wrapped up in my duvet forever, and this is all I can offer as I send them on their way to explore.