Coming Home: Teaching our children in the midst of a harsh world
by Jessie Veeder
It’s hard to think of anything else these days but what’s in the news. It’s tragedy and politics all wrapped into a messy ball of emotions and fierce beliefs as we try to predict and manipulate our future. It can be as paralyzing as it is polarizing.
And if I had questions — about money or friendship or God or the things that scared me — my parents had an answer to help make me feel safe again.
During baby Edie’s second week in this world, she sat sleeping in my arms as news of the San Bernardino mass shooting flashed on our television screen. Outside our house, it was cold and quiet. Not a bird to sit on the fence railing, the wind likely blowing the tips of the gray trees back and forth and I was alone with this tiny, fresh and oblivious human watching the window to the world flash terrifying images of helplessness, heartbreak and fear into my home.
My first instinct was to cry with outrage. How selfish to bring a baby into such a violent world. And then thoughts and plans on how I could possibly protect her from evil and heartbreak, worry and fear, started swirling and bouncing around in my freshly postpartum brain, without conclusion.
And time passed. Conversation about the wonder of her fresh face and tiny hands turned to sleep schedules and teething remedies. Conversations about the state of our country turned to oil and cattle prices and the impending election and we settled into a life on the ranch with a baby as the fear of those first few weeks settled into the cracks in the floor of this house.
But last week I woke up to a reminder. Forty-nine killed, another 53 wounded in the name of hate.
I cried again. Dozens of mothers lost their babies that day. I couldn’t shake my grief.
I put Edie in her sunhat and strolled her out to the dirt patch that’s working on becoming our garden, and I dug in the earth. There was nothing else I could do in that moment except to nurture what was in front of me.
So I planted seeds. I picked up the baby when she fussed. I bounced her and lifted her up to the sky. I nursed her to sleep. I turned on the sprinkler and watered the ground. I strapped her to my body and walked up the road and back. I let my worries and thoughts bounce off the hills.
Tragedy isn’t new to the human race. Children across the world live and suffer through much more than seeing it on their television screens with the privilege of shutting it off and returning to the swing set in their backyard.
And while parents worth the job want to protect their children from the harsh realities of this world, I know that protection from the truth is a disservice to our human race.
Because kids aren’t immediately responsible for helping to make decisions for a better world, but eventually they will be.
Letting them in on the truths of life, teaching them about respect and consequences, helping them process pain and suffering, cultivating their ability to have compassion, all of these are important lessons that can only be taught against the backdrop of reality.
Listening teaches them to listen.
Questioning teaches them to question.
Yes, I want my daughter to feel safe here in her home protected by the coulees and hills of North Dakota. Held tight in my arms. But holding her so close will inevitably hold her back from learning to understand, appreciate and respect the differences we celebrate as human beings.
As parents it’s our biggest role to create the compassionate helpers in this world.
And while these hills can’t protect us from pain and tragedy, they can hold us.
And we can hold one another.
And if I can teach my daughter anything, I hope it’s that.