Mothering When the World is Scary
Maybe it's because of what happened in Paris over the weekend.
Or maybe it's because 200 children were executed one by one last week in Syria.
Or maybe it's because a friend recently told me how she lives in constant fear for her children simply because they are black.
Or maybe it's because I'm raising three children in a time where terrorism and fear are rampant, and yet somehow, it hasn't really touched us yet.
On Saturday morning, I woke up and I watched my children play. I thought of the parents in Syria who woke up that morning with empty arms. I thought of the parents across the globe whose adult children were slaughtered in Paris at a rock concert or while they ate a late dinner. I begged God to never ask that of me.
Tragedy makes us reflect on our own circumstances and I know that I'm privileged to be able to reflect and not fear. Simply because of where I was born and the color of my skin, I don't have to live in constant fear. I know mass murders have and will continue to happen on American soil, but the truth is that those numbers are minuscule in comparison to what is happening around the world. The kind of shootings that happen in our country happen every day elsewhere. We forget that sometimes in our comfortable American lives.
My children have a double portion of privilege because they're American and they're white and it worries me. It worries me because I can already see a sense of entitlement growing inside them and I hate it. They are blissfully unaware of what's happening in the world (as they should be) and sometimes it's hard for me to hold back my frustration when they grab a snack without asking or say things like, "Give me!" or "I want it!". I know they're just kids and that's what kids do and how would they know anything else? They have no idea what hunger is. They have no idea what fear is or what pain is. They are so fortunate. So, so fortunate.
Zach and I are in constant conversation about how to raise children that don't take from the world, but give back. We want our kids to be aware of how good they have it, so that they never take it for granted. We want to raise compassionate and caring children that are aware of the world around them. We don't want them to ever feel superior, entitled to anything, or that they can use their skin color or nationality to climb above someone else. We don't want them to think they can save the world because they're American, or because they're white, or to ever think, "Oh look at the poor little brown children in other countries! Let's go save them!". We want them to love without condition every person that they meet. We want them to be kind to the poor and the rich, the white and the brown, the privileged and the under privileged. We want them to be aware of their advantage and to be humbled by it, not proud of it. We don't want them to ever feel like the world owes them anything. We want them to work for what they want and to be thankful for every morsel of bread. We want them to be confident in who they are and to be thankful for what they have. Most of all, though, we just want them to be aware.
So for now, I hold back my speeches on poverty and racism and terror, and I focus on things they can understand right now. But no matter what we do, it doesn't seem like enough. With everything in me, I want to protect them and shield them from the horror that's happening around the world, but at the same time, I want them to know, to some degree, how good they have it. I'm not sure we'll ever get it completely right, but I like to think we're off to a good start.
We want our kids to have a carefree, happy childhood, but we don't want to be so relaxed in our raising of them that we have a couple of entitled middle schoolers in a few years. We don't expect them to understand these difficult, complex concepts right now, but we're hoping to build character, compassion, integrity, and generosity into the fabric of who they are as people.
The world is a scary place and one day my kids will fully understand that, but for now they don't and I think that's best. I hope that their childhood is never stolen from them and that they have many more blissfully unaware years. They are so fortunate to have the freedom of ignorance and I hope that one day when they're aware of the world, they'll be thankful for the few years when all they knew was abundance and safety and love.
In the meantime, I'm going to be fully aware and fully thankful that I am able to mother without fear. I will think and pray often for the mothers who live in constant fear for their children's safety, whether they're across the sea or across the street from me. And I will never take my good fortune for granted.