I didn't know anything about the explosions at the Boston Marathon until sometime after 4pm yesterday when Charlie was watching ESPN. I knew it had to be big if ESPN was reporting a news story that was suddenly only tangentially related to sports. I sat on the couch, watching the coverage, seeing for the 20th time the old man runner in the red shirt stumble and fall to the ground as the explosion rocked the crowd just a few yards from him. I watched the coverage for maybe 30 or 40 minutes before it dawned on me that Robbie and Charlie were watching along with Mike and me.
Robbie asked what happened. We told him there was an explosion. Charlie said it was a bomb and I immediately wanted to protect them both from that thought.
Explosion, while bad enough, didn't seem to carry with it the essence of evil that the word "bomb" did. We gathered, held hands and said a "Hail Mary" for those injured and killed. I texted Annie and asked her to say a prayer too. Then I turned off the television, told the kids to do their homework, and went about making dinner.
Nearly 12 years ago, in 2001, we watched on the morning news as the Twin Towers and thousands of lives were sacrificed in New York City. Annie was at preschool. Charlie was only 2 and played with toys as Mike and I sat and watched the events unfold. After about an hour or so, I got up and drove to pick Annie up from preschool. I felt an urgency that we should all be together. We watched hours of coverage, switching to Barney and Madeline videos when it seemed that little eyes and ears were getting too many details, or when Mike and I just had absorbed more than we could handle.
Yesterday as I turned off the TV, I wondered what was best to do. Turn off the television and protect my kids from the day's terrible events? Or leave it on and help them be informed about their world? I didn't worry about how Annie would handle it. But Charlie can be pretty sensitive and I wasn't sure that Robbie would be able to understand what was happening in perspective to his own bubbled life.
It turns out we did a little of both. After dinner we watched a little bit of the coverage. And then we turned on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was something therapeutic about watching a show where I knew the good guys were going to win in the end.
We had talked some at dinner about what had happened. And then when I was tucking Robbie into bed, we prayed again for everyone in Boston who was hurt.
"Why would someone just go put a bomb in a place where there were people?," Robbie asked after the prayer was over.
"I think he must have a lot of hate in his heart," I told him.
"I know how that hate might have gotten in his heart," Robbie said. "Maybe he is in school and kids are mean to him and that's why he has hate."
Whoa. Deep breath here and a slight prayer that this was an observation, not an empathetic sentiment.
"Maybe," I said. "You know the best way to help people get rid of hateful hearts?," I asked him. "You give them lots of love, even when it feels like you don't want to. We show people God's love and hopefully one day, they open their hearts to that love and have lots of love to share."
That seemed to be enough for him. He fell asleep with no more questions.
I'm sure that the questions won't end there, though I'm not sure I will have sufficient answers. It was so much easier 12 years ago to protect my kids by simply turning on Barney. I didn't have to think about how they would be part of that big, ugly, complicated world someday. But now -- as they are all in double digits -- I remind myself that they ARE part of that world. And I'm left wondering how best to help them live and love in it.