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Talking to Our Kids About Paris

Three of my children are in a French-Immersion program at their elementary and middle schools. This past weekend, my 12-year-old texted me: “Did you hear about Paris?” As we texted, I could sense her confusion and sadness for a place she feels a personal connection to. One of her friends texted her to “wear black tomorrow—For Paris” at school the next day, and they all did. But when I asked her what they talked about in school, she told me her teacher said, “We’re not going to talk about Paris today.” 

And that was it.

I was disappointed by this missed opportunity to talk about disaster, terrorism, government, civic responsibility, sympathy, and other important themes. But I also sympathize with the teacher. Maybe it seemed like too much for her.

When I was in the sixth grade, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off. It was devastating, and I remember my teacher coming into the computer lab to collect us and take us back to homeroom so we could watch the news together. I saw that he was visibly distraught, and I remember being surprised by that. In my 11-year-old brain, what had happened was tragic, but far away.

As I watched the news and learned the story of Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space, I found myself connected with the millions who were watching with me as we all tried to process what had happened—how sad it was, how it could have been avoided, and how to move forward.  That was the first tragic event that connected me—with sadness and a desire to do something—to the world.

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Christa McAuliffe was one of seven crew members killed in the January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. Image from Wikipedia.

The events this past weekend in Paris were horrific. As I read and listened to the details surrounding the terrorist attacks, I found that it became a little too much for my 41-year-old brain to process. I had to walk away from the news for a few hours, and I’ve felt weary, as many do, by the sheer number of these tragic events that seem to string together all over the world—not just in Paris—that unite us in collective sadness, mourning, and questioning. Because there are so many other disasters happening simultaneously, and there will be more, I find myself asking, “How do we choose to react in a way that is helpful, and honors and helps victims but doesn’t engulf us in complete hopelessness?”

There are many more events in between The Challenger disaster and Paris, and I remember them. I remember where I was when I found out, how I felt, and how I wonder, with morbid curiosity what will come next. Lately, when a disaster strikes, I think, “This is the world my children will inherit. This is the world they live in.”  But when I think of solutions, I think of all the political complexities to all the proposed solutions and, as a mother, I think (I always think) “What do I have control over?”

I can choose not to live in fear, I can choose to move forward with faith and love instead of standing in a pool of apathy, anxiety, and hate. I can choose to love and create a home environment that is a safe place in the world, where all who enter are welcomed and loved. I can pray for that which I don’t understand, and for those who are affected far more directly than me. I can be informed. I can vote. I can donate time and money to worthy causes. I can teach my children to love, pray for, and serve their fellowmen, regardless of any personal, religious, or political label. I can put out goodness into the world. And I can hope for better.

***This video gave me encouragement in parenting this week:

https://www.facebook.com/jrous92/videos/10156190732035487/?pnref=story

Lead image from iStock

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