Friday, April 19, 2013

The News

We get the daily newspaper delivered to our house and some days I wish we didn't. Our subscription is a gift from my dad who once said, "I want my grandsons growing up in a house with a newspaper." My problem with the newspaper is that often the headlines and/or front page photos are violent or otherwise disturbing. And of course I know that this is because violent and otherwise disturbing things are happening all around us, but I'm not sure I want my kids seeing those things spread over the kitchen table first thing in the morning.

Jack can read the headlines for himself, but thankfully he mostly pays his attention to the comics. He loves Zits and Peanuts, though the Peanuts humor can sometimes be frustrating to him. He'll spend a few minutes attempting to decipher it. "Mom, I don't get it," he cries. To which I almost always reply, "Nobody does."

Sawyer is all about the Bi-Mart ads. Did you know Bi-Mart sells rifles? This is Sawyer's favorite part of the newspaper. "Mom! MOM! See this GUN! I want this GUN!" To which I almost always reply, "Look at that swimming pool! See those elastic waist jeans? Oooh, canned peaches!"

We are not a gun-toting family. Okay, fine, maybe there was that one time when we packed some heat... but generally speaking we are a passive bunch around here. Which is why I am continuously surprised by my own kids' apparent fascination with weapons.

My friends' daughter was in Boston running the marathon. She's fine. Well, she's not physically hurt, at least. I couldn't stop thinking about their family on Monday. About the time between learning the news and hearing their daughter's voice reassuring them from across the country. About the range of emotions they must have felt. About the relief and the sorrow and the horror. As I lay in bed that night listening to the rhythm of Clementine breathing peacefully in the darkness next to me, I found myself replaying that horrible what if over and over in my head.

When Jack was a toddler he went missing one sunny afternoon. It was the classic "I though you were watching him" moment that all parents experience at some point. Brent and I went looking through the house and calling for him out in the backyard. I remember standing in the living room watching out the window as Brent walked out to the sidewalk in front of our house. My stomach lurched as he threw down his beer and bolted toward the busy road that intersects with our street. Brent reached Jack just as he was stepping off the sidewalk. I couldn't stop shaking for the next hour and as I lay in bed that night my stomach churned and my mind reeled. Every time I closed my eyes I saw what might have happened. What if?

We watched some of the news footage from Boston. Jack wanted to know what had happened and so I tried to delicately explain it to him in terms he would understand. I threw in a handful of "look for the helpers" and hoped that I hadn't said too much.

Jack did not appear to be scared or sad about any of it. Instead he was completely captivated by the idea of a bomb. He wanted to know how bombs work, how to build one, where would someone get the stuff to make one, etc. I noticed he was watching the footage as if it were some replay of an epic touchdown. When Sawyer wandered in Jack said, "Brother, let's go play bombing together!"

And then I pretty much freaked out. I tried to explain, to reason, to create empathy, to invoke a sense of compassion, to... well... to do anything that would get them to stop playing like that. I mean, my god, what was wrong with them?

"But Mom," Jack said, "we're just pretending."
"Yeah, Mom," Sawyer chimed in. "We're just ketending."

Then it hit me. My kids have no concept of death. They don't understand terrorism, or fear, or violence. They don't know hate.They are just kids who are pretending.

So I turned off the TV and I watched as their game evolved into something that required them to jump off the couch and chase the dog around the living room. Jack tickled Clementine and we all laughed. We snuggled on the couch and read books together until bedtime.

And the next morning when the newspaper came, I folded the front page over and tucked it beneath the other sections. I found the comics and placed Peanuts on top. And then I woke Jack up for breakfast.


  1. I love this piece and I can totally relate to your sentiments about your kids' fascination with weapons. My kids don't understand death, violence or destruction either, but they are fascinated with observing what happens if they destroy something and explore my reactions to them playing rough. It's a combination, I guess, of not having those concepts and of finding things fascinating when they see that their parents don't approve.
    Glad to hear that your friend's daughter is alright. What a terrible experience this must have been for those in Boston and for everyone in the US. Over here we were just watching from the sidelines and the impact of the bombs drowned a little in whatever else was going on in my part of the world. I'm feeling with you though.

  2. My husband runs the newspaper here and I still can't bring myself to read it most days. At least the front page... it's so hard. I'm so glad your story had a happy ending!