My children made me cry today. Their selfish and inconsiderate nature touched a nerve, a raw nerve, which has been slowing fraying after months of soul destroying and heart breaking news which is filtered through the internet, television or from the mouths of those around me.
I’m surrounded by people with cancer; more than 120 innocent people have just been shot in Paris; people in Syria are blown to bits every day; wild animals are hunted and tortured; millions of people are starving or have no water; nature is under threat from mankind; the planet is slowly eroding before our eyes; children are being abused or killed on a daily basis and there is corruption and greed lurking in every shadow.
And my daughter is moaning because I made her eat all her broccoli.
And my son is shouting because his sister gave him the middle finger when I wasn’t looking.
And while we are at it… neither of them said thank you for dinner or offered to help with the dishes.
Part of me wanted to pull up the photographs and videos that engulf me most days and make them watch them over and over again until they understand the difference between a good life and a bad life. A life where eating broccoli would be a luxury. Where being given the middle finger would be a delight compared to having your head blown off.
But I can’t. Because I don’t want them to be sad or scared or fearful. Not at 10 and 8 years old. I don’t want them to see a child left without limbs in a senseless war or videos of bombs wiping out towns and villages or photographs of aeroplane debris, train crashes or mutilated children.
But then on the other hand I don’t want them to be spoilt, selfish or inconsiderate. I want them to appreciate what they have. I want them to understand that in the grand scheme of things their petty arguments, their bickering and their huffing when asked to clean their room or walk the dog is, in reality, a luxury many will never be able to enjoy.
So where do you draw the line and how far do you go with explaining ‘what’s outside their bubble’? What is the age rating on the atrocities of life? They aren’t dished out with a label like Call of Duty.
So instead, as daughter is told to eat the broccoli because it’s good for her and son is told to stop telling tales, whilst daughter is reprimanded and TV privileges taken away for the night for the middle finger episode, I retreat to my bedroom and weep.
I cry for mankind and the fact the world is destroying itself. I know war and feuds are nothing new. I know religion and politics are the world’s worst enemy. I know the planet won’t spontaneously combust tomorrow. But sometimes, some days, I just don’t want my children to grow up in this ‘world’. Not the way it is. I want to shake everyone and say: “Enjoy it! Savour it! Make the most of it! Don’t fight. Don’t destroy. Don’t battle. Love each other! Help each other. Respect each other. We are Family. We are Friends. We need each other.”
As a child the world is small and self-contained and it’s full of colour and fun and play and of course I want my kids to see the world in this same way. I don’t want them to be scared of the boogie man. I don’t want them to be afraid of flying in case there’s a terrorist on board or frightened they will get cancer.
But as it stands I have to teach them not to go off with strangers, I have to explain why some bad people shoot innocent people, I have to explain why the child died of cancer and that they won’t just ‘catch it’ and die too.
So I cry in confusion. I cry because one day maybe something big and bad will happen to me or them or us. I cry because one day I will have more explaining to do. I cry because basically there is not a damn thing I can do about it.
Except teach my kids to be good kids.
So I talk to them. I tell them a little girl in Africa would thank me for the broccoli and ask for seconds and thirds because where she comes from she’s lucky if she gets any food. I tell them bad people in the world kill innocent people and it’s wrong and it makes mummy sad that this happens. I tell them that I feel upset when my children argue and fight because we should love each other and help each other and be nice to each other. Because we are family and we are essentially human beings.
I tell them in words without the images. I tell them because I can’t tell this to the world. So I start here. At the beginning.
Later I find a note on my bed that my daughter has made and it says “Sorry Mummy” and “I love you.” And then I cry even more. Not because I’m sad but because she gets it. Today at least.
Life is relative and life does go on. As much as I grieve for all those fellow human beings who are lost, dead, injured or hurting around me, I have to focus on showing my little world the importance of being nice and kind.
I can’t solve the problems in the world unfortunately, but maybe I can help teach my kids right from wrong and good from bad. Even if it does start with the importance of eating broccoli and not giving people the middle finger.