In the Wake of Paris: What It Means To Be A Mother Raising Children In A Harsh World

Last night, I sat at the edge of my five year old’s bed and watched his face as he listened to his daddy read him the first chapter of The Chronicles of Narnia series. My husband read of a land far away; a land with magical creatures, mythical beasts, and lots of treasure. My son, whose attention is generally impossible to hold, listened intently. I watched an array of emotion dance across his little face as the words jumped off the page and saturated his eager mind. His smile, his eyes, his animated little brow held onto the anticipation, concern, confusion, surprise, wonder, and fulfillment that was stirring inside.

As I watched my son’s mind transport him to a far away land, I thought of Paris. I thought of the hundreds of lives lost and the millions of people impacted by the events of the day. I couldn’t help but wish that my mind could be transported back in time. Back to a time when my heart was pure, my head was clear, and a blanket of innocence shielded me from the outside world. Back to a time when violence and terrorism were words reserved for adult movies; where they didn’t make up any part of my reality. Back to a time when the world was a safe place and people were still good.

It’s so much easier, when tragedy strikes, to close my eyes and turn away from the pain, heartache and sorrow. It’s easier to shut the world out and nestle myself into a safe little cocoon that my mind creates. It’s easier to stay blind and naive.

And it’s easier to be a mom who shields her children from the devastating realities of the world we live in. It’s easier to hide them under a wall of ignorance and guard their hearts from having to see the evil that exists in the world. It’s easier to pretend that we live inside the pages of a fantasy world created to keep us safe.

It’s so much easier to not have the hard conversations about what it means to be a child growing up in a world filled with school shootings, suicide bombers and terrorist attacks. It’s easier to avoid.

But I don’t want to be a mom who avoids. I don’t want to be a mom who takes the easy way out; who turns a blind eye when life gets tough. I don’t want to be a mom who shuts her children out because she’s too scared that her heart, and theirs, can’t handle seeing the world as it is, not as we think it should be.

Last night, I thought of Paris. But more than that, I thought of what it means to be a mother raising children in a harsh world. I thought of the conversations to come and the opportunities for growth that will inevitably befall us. I thought of what kind of mom I want to be when tragedy strikes.

I want to be a mom who invites my children in instead of turning them away. I want my children to see me cry and curse as I wrestle with trying to make sense of a world that never seems to make much sense.

I want to be a mom who sits with my children through the fear instead of trying to rise above it. I want my kids to know that it’s okay to feel scared; that fear is a normal response to a tragic event. I want to help my kids process the fear and show them healthy outlets for releasing it when they are ready.

I want to be a mom who doesn’t rush my children through an emotional experience. I want to give them a safe space to feel, for as long as they need to feel. I want to give my children the gift of allowing a process to unfold, completely, in its entirety. I want them to know what it’s like to sit through uncomfortability and know that feelings eventually pass.

I want to be a mom who shares this world, as painful as it is, with my children. I want to sit with them and share the pain, sorrow, grief and heartache. I want to wipe their tears on my chest as they bury their heads close to my heart.

I want to be a mom who encourages my children, especially in times like these, to lean heavily on their faith. I want them to always know that this world is not all there is; that this is just a small part of their journey. I want them to look up at the vastness of the sky and be reminded of the beauty that awaits us when our time here is done.

I want to be a mom who helps my children see the goodness, even when it seems hard to find. I want them to know that the goodness is always there and it is worth finding.

And I want to be a mom who teaches my children to be the compassion and love that they want to see in the world. To bring hope and healing in the midst of chaos and turmoil. To be the ones who reach out their hands to those who are hurting and to carry light into the darkest of places.

Last night, I thought of Paris and what it means to be a mom raising children in this scary world.

This morning, I am praying for Paris. I’m praying for the millions of lives who have been flipped upside down because of what happened.

And I’m praying for all of the moms who are raising kids in this crazy, messed up, tragedy laced world.

I’m praying that we would have the courage to raise children who lean in instead of ones who walk away.

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