Being A Parent During Tragedy

Tragedy becomes a different experience when you have children.

It’s weird, I remember always having some part of my mind when a tragedy occurred, like 9/11, that thought, “Wow, thank G-d that didn’t happen to me.” I always felt a quiet guilt when that thought would run through my brain.

In retrospect, I think that no matter what, when an attack like this happens, we have that thought. It’s natural to think of ourselves, even if only for a moment, when these things happen.

But when you have children, those self-interested thoughts take a different form.

The whole day yesterday, after the attack in Boston, all I could think about was my daughter. I just thought to myself… this is the world I’m bringing her into. This is the life she’s entering… Oh G-d, I hope she never has to witness this let alone… be a victim…

And that’s about the time my hands would tremble and my heart would race and I would try and focus on getting back to work.

Because this world is a sick place, and there are sick people in it, and to have a child that’s so young, that when you get home and look at her and she has no idea what happens and she just smiles and doesn’t understand a thing about suffering or tragedy or trauma –

Your heart just breaks.

I’m still thinking about that today.

But today, another thought hit me.

What if my daughter wasn’t a victim, but a perpetrator? G-d forbid.

But, what if…

And I can’t help but think that whoever did this, he or she or they had parents. They were a child once. They might have been a psychopathic child, true, but it’s much more likely that they were just a child like anyone else. A child that didn’t know anything about death or tragedy or bombings or destruction.

And at some point, something must have happened to this child. Something must have turned that child into a killer.

And it was about that time, as those thoughts flew around in my head, that I realized that this what having a child is about.

Sure, we can prevent our child from being a victim. But only for so long. And not completely.

But we have this special power as parents to help guide them along a path where they will want to create and nourish life instead of destroying it. Guide them to being one of the “helpers” as Mr. Rogers would put it. The people that build instead of tearing down.

This is the beauty of being a parent. Yes, I’m sending my child into a sick world. But, G-d willing, she will be one of the people to heal it.