I am a crybaby.
I have always been overly sensitive. My childhood was riddled with the same insults.
“Dan, you’re such a crybaby.”
And I was, I cried over every single thing. When I didn’t get something I wanted, I cried. When something made me sad, I cried. When I was in a situation that I did not want to be in, I cried. When I ran out of hair spray, I cried.
Well, except that last one, besides, that doesn’t count if it happened twice.
Yes, I have shed a lot of useless tears in my life. But, what happens when you NEED to cry. You feel it in your heart, your body knows you need to cry.
Last month, my little one woke up and stared at a tv screen. The morning news, as usual, blared from its usual spot on our dresser.
I did not realize she didn’t change the channel to her morning cartoons. A few minutes later…a little voice spoke out to me as I was getting ready for work.
“Daddy…why….why….why…is there people shooting at people?”
“Whoa whoa, what do you mean?” I walked into the room that she was watching TV in and saw a newscast about the shootings that just happened in San Bernardino.
I did not know what to say. I did not know how to explain this to her.
She probed further.
“…they…they…are not alive, anymore?”
“Baby, please watch cartoons. Isn’t Teen Titans Go! on?”
I grabbed the remote and changed the channel. I was furious with myself for not knowing how to respond to that question.
I went back to getting ready but stopped in my tracks.
“Baby, I do not know why that happened. I don’t know why someone would want to hurt people like that. That’s not right…sometimes bad things happen…and we can’t explain it. But, it will be fixed…adults will fix this…ok? Let us adults fix this…you be a kid ok? That’s your job…to play…to have fun…to eat candy…all the kid stuff ok?”
I knew that wasn’t enough because I could see the wheels turning in her head.
How do I explain this to her? How do I explain that we live in a world that innocent people are gunned down for no reason? How do I explain that we live in a world that human beings can hate people they don’t even know so much that they would want them dead?
That type of hatred…that emotion…is something that is unknown to many people.
As a parent, you can’t really prepare for that discussion. I couldn’t just say, “Not sure…go ask your mom.” When a question like that pops up, it’s all you and you have to answer it.
I thought about what I had said to her. The fact that I said, “Let us adults fix it.” Not only did I say that we would “fix” this, I included the word “us.” So I am a part of this. The word “fix” is not in my vocabulary. When this word is used in a sentence with my name, it is usually used like this:
“I have to fix this because Dan broke it.”
“This was broken but Dan fixed it.”
But, I told her I would. A seven year-old shouldn’t worry about why adults are hurting each other. Her mind should be fixated on Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, and other stuff that’s in a sleigh.
And as I drove home from work and really internalized what had happened in San Bernardino, one thing was absent. Tears. Not one watery eyes,,,not even a sniffle. The same guy whose eyes still overflow during any Disney movie could not cry over this tragedy. Have I become desensitized to mass shootings and gun violence?
This bothered me deeply. How am I supposed to help “fix” this problem if my emotions over the subject are not passionate anymore? This isn’t a small issue that I could just throw to the side and ignore like last night’s dirty dishes.
But, as adults, it is commonplace for this to happen. We can absorbed into our lives and put ourselves in a bubble. We tend to our bubble and care about what is in our bubbles. And that’s where our passion stays. And that is a lesson that I do not want to teach to my little one. We are not meant to take care of our own little world. Our lives our bigger than that and I want her to learn that we should fight and care for the betterment of every person. That it is not normal and commonplace for this violence. That hatred is not normal.
I think I got my “tears” back.