I’ve recently seen a lot of posts from other moms expressing their concern for the world in which their children are growing-up. “What kind of world am I bringing my kids into?” “How can I keep them safe in a world like this?” “I fear for my children’s futures.” I am not denying that we live in some pretty crazy times with lots of scariness happening all around. Between ISIS, protests & riots, Kim Jong-Un, all sorts of terrorism, and divisive and polarizing political figures, there seems to be no clear or safe path for anyone. We are also living in what seem to be pretty trying times amongst our peers, in which we walk on eggshells for fear of offending, antagonizing and alienating each other. That also presents it’s own form of scary. We live in a time and place where political correctness fuels social destruction, and technology makes the world’s evil just an arms reach away.
There are many fears I have about the world and the country’s current state. I have to think twice before getting on an airplane because I remember every second of 9/11, and these protests, marches and riots of late recall in my mind the LA riots from when I was very young – and those were in my hometown, seemingly in my own backyard. I’ve had scary memories and experiences with world events that have shaped any fearful outlook I have today, and the unfortunate part is I’m sure my kids will experience the same at some point in their youth. I am also sure that my parents experienced the same and had many similar thoughts when they were having kids, as did their parents before them, and so on. This is history repeating at it’s finest (or, “at it’s worst” may be more appropriate). Of course every part of me wants to shield my children from the warfare and ugliness that surround us, and that is a very natural part of being a mother. But the other side to it, which also seemed to develop out of motherhood, was the understanding that I have to be the brave one now. Not only can I try to protect them, but part of protecting them is to demonstrate awareness and strength in the face of adversity, and to show them how to create a safe environment for themselves. I will never be able to keep them in a bubble or shield them from all harm, so I want to make sure they are well equipped to deal with these things on their own – after all, I am their mother. What I have realized in recent weeks and days, as some path of destruction seems to be around every turn, is that everything starts at home. What is in the world at large, both good and bad, is much bigger than I, let alone my children, can comprehend. So my duty as a parent, in raising good humans, is to ensure that their wellbeing, social confrontations and contributions begin with my (and my husband’s) guidance under our own roof.
Now, I am a Jewish woman married to a Christian man. We have varying levels of observance or devoutness, but we’re both God-fearing, good people nonetheless. We have friends and family of different races, different religions, different interests and vocations, and believe it or not, different political views. We are able to see the differences between people and communities, yet value what we add to each other’s lives, and want for ourselves and our family as sense of love, tolerance and respect, always. We recently started to say grace at the dinner table every night – which has become my toddler’s favorite evening tradition. As this was not something I was accustomed to growing up, I admittedly felt very uncomfortable when we introduced this into our daily routine. But it has become something I do with my family that I cherish greatly. While my husband may not see this outright (as I rarely “lead” grace, unless he’s not around to do it), for me it’s an opportunity to give thanks and show love and appreciation for my family and the time we have together. It’s also an opportunity to teach my son to be grateful for the fortunate life we have, and for the neighborhood, community, and world in which we live. Some nights (most nights, to be fair) involve a simple “thanks” to any animals who died for our meal and a recognition of our loving family, while other nights extend a greater acknowledgement to current events much bigger than us or our home. For me “grace” is not religious – but rather a moment of reflection and gratitude. And, of course, it’s an opportunity to see my son throw his hands over his head with an Amen! like he’s calling the most exciting touchdown – easily the cutest part of dinner. And while he may not yet understand the full purpose of why we do this, when he reaches his hands out for ours at the beginning of each meal together, I know we’re raising a good human – and that’s what matters.
It is no original idea, but it is one that becomes clearer since being in the parental role – my duty as a mother is to teach, guide and raise good people who are responsible members of society. The country or the world at large will always be just that – large. But the ability to recognize our role within our smaller communities and neighborhoods is a start to understanding our role within the bigger picture. If I can raise people who know who they are, value their beliefs and principles, value the lives of others as well as their own, are aware and informed of their surroundings, and are good to one another, then I have done my job and feel confident that they will be ok, regardless of what the “world” has in store.
There will always be terrorists, just as there will always be earthquakes and tornadoes. But there is no use in my “fear” being wasted on things completely out of my control. What I can control is how my children manage their personal place in society and how we shape their future interactions. And while this all seems perhaps too easy or sensational, it’s the only way I can justify not being “afraid” for my children. Because let’s be honest, with all these atrocities happening in our world, we still need to sleep at night. For the children.
There is no denying that all of the horrifying events currently happening are completely disgusting. They demonstrate anger, hatred, violence, and racism and bigotry that is clearly still an issue in parts of our country, and in many parts of the world. There is not one part of me that understands this behavior, wishes to be around it, or wishes for my children to experience this from any angle. But when things like this are happening, especially when it is on our land and created by our fellow Americans, I have to shift my upset and fear into something more productive as a parent, and put on different glasses, so to speak. I have to remember what my husband says – “you can’t control what other people do, you can only control how you react.” These horrible things that are happening (just like the horrible things that have always happened) are created by people made up of the same matter as you and I, right? Made in the same way that our children are made, and breathing the same air. So while I can be full of anger and confusion and fear watching news footage and reading articles, I must also realize this, as a responsible and loving mother: I may not be able to stop these things from happening, or shield my children’s eyes, but I can make sure they do not become those people. And by doing so, I’m eliminating at least two people from a “scary” future, and doing my part to create a better world.
And for the record, based on clear trends throughout history, we live in a pretty good time and the future looks pretty damn bright.