Monday, August 28, 2017

Violence, Media, and Kids

Sometimes, I love phones and iPods and tablets and laptops. Those glorious little devices often make me wonder how on earth my family managed to get ahold of me or get anything done before they existed.

And sometimes I hate them. Like today.

Today, a tragedy struck our town, and worse it seems, our school community. The details aren't known, but unfortunately, some that may or may not be true have become known to our kids.

My 11-year-old received a text message that provided a pretty detailed story about what happened and it hit him pretty hard (and mama bear is very unhappy about how this happened). He had a lot of questions about how something like that occurs, and then opened up a bit about what he was feeling. He is like his mama: he wears his heart on his sleeve. He worries about things. He's been worried the past week about Texas and everyone in it, asking for updates on if they're rescuing people, are they getting to the nursing homes, and so on. He's wondering if another country drops a nuclear bomb near Chicago, would it's devastation reach us? His heart is just about the biggest I have ever seen in a kid. (Don't get me wrong, he can be a pain in the butt sometimes. But his heart is still huge.) Then something so very pertinent and honest and telling came out of his mouth:

"Mom, I just don't understand it. Every time you turn on the news, there is another shooting in the Chicago area. Why are so many people dying? There's one story after another with bad news. It seems like it's all bad news." Then later came his next question: "How do we help to stop the violence?"

He's 11 and he sees it. He hears about the violence going on in the city and state he loves, and unfortunately, sometimes a little closer to home. He sees the news and the shock value the media go for, filling every half hour newscast with as much tragedy as their teleprompters can handle. He's carrying a weight that I don't think at 11 I even knew existed. He wants the world to be a better place, and he wants to make it a better place. 

I wish we could shelter him from all of it. We could take away all electronics, we could sell the television, but as today has taught me, he will still hear about it somewhere. And it probably will only be a shred of the truth, regardless of whether he hears it from little mouths at school or big mouths on the television. What is most difficult is that we have to have these conversations far earlier than I ever imagined. When I was 11, I didn't really know about storms unless they were hitting our neighborhood. I didn't know about how many people were hurt or injured daily in Chicago. It boggles my mind that kids today know about these things and have to grow up far sooner than they should.

I wish I could give him a step-by-step plan on how to fix everything, but I can't. We talked about the importance of being the best person you can, of helping others, of listening, of being there for people. We talked about how he can go into a career where he can build opportunities for kids to get on a better path in life. We talked about how from now on, we're going to start our day and end our day with good news, and that at least one of those should be something we did to make the world a better place that day.

Tonight, I had one of the hardest, most honest conversations I've ever had to have with one of my children. I couldn't hold back the tears as the tragedy of the situation behind the need for our talk really sank in. There has always been violence and always been tragedy, and I couldn't tell you if it's gotten worse over time or if it's just more reported thanks to mass media. And, I don't have answers for how to fix it, other than we need to start loving each other a little more and stop spreading gossip and hating a little bit less. I plan to hug my children just a little bit tighter from now on, that's for certain. 

Remember how they edited the Wyle E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons so that our children wouldn't be scarred? 

I WISH the worst thing my kids heard about was that crazy coyote getting blown up by ACME.

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