So how did you explain the terror attacks in Vegas to your children?
I wasn’t planning on saying anything to mine. But my three-year-old son caught the tail-end of the news report before I could get around the corner from the kitchen and dining room and hunt high and low for the remote to turn it off. I never did find the remote in time.
“Mommy did those people die? Did that man kill those people?” My heart just ached hearing him say words like “die” and “kill”. Please just let him stay innocent for a little while longer. Let’s turn on Thomas the Train or something happy.
But the questions just kept coming.
The simple answer: Yes, baby. He did. “Why did he do that?” Because there are bad people in the world today who hurt other people. “Do they have ouchies now?” Yes baby, they have really bad ouchies. “Will they go to the doctor and get some medicines?” Yes, some of them will.
I could see his little face trying to make sense of what was happening, using leading questions to connect the little bits of life he’s figured out so far. Bless his little heart.
A few days later, when his two-year-old sister was caught in the midst of a tantrum, he put his toys down and wrapped his arms around her and said, “Aww you need a cuddle.”
It was so spontaneous — he usually puts her in a headlock– that I just watched in awe, quiet and still, trying to capture the moment in slo-mo. As the two-year-old pulled away, you could see the relief on her face. Cuddle time saved her day. They returned to playing with their toys.
This brief window into their lives proves my kids are watching a fair amount of television — Lambie, an affectionate stuffed animal on Doc McStuffins, solves most problems by offering her peers a cuddle.
But it also showed me that my three-year-old son is learning how to show sympathy to others. Watching his sister, he was moved to show compassion and comfort her. For them, this is how they solve problems, with a little love and a hug that shows that someone else cares about how you feel.
In the years to come, my children will certainly shed their layers of naivete and acquire an understanding of how the world works, including the cycles of sadness and pain, evil and death that have existed since the dawn of humans.
But I hope to also instill in them a sense of sympathy–the ability to show compassion and comfort to others. To naturally be moved with emotion when you see another person in pain, whether or not you know them or agree with them.
In the face of horror and unspeakable acts, sympathy and compassion become guiding principles for humanity again.
Comfort provided in a hug, a cuddle, can provide the first stitch of hope to close a raw wound, the promise of a balm and soothing help in just a little while.
In a world full of endless ouchies, we could all use a little more time to cuddle.