Those Talks

With Martin away for a business trip, and our nanny visiting family in the United States, I am completely on my own with the kids this week. Just on Monday morning alone, I dealt with a missing permission slip crisis, a tick discovery followed by tick removal that sounded like major surgery without anesthesia, school drop-off, and a “sprint” to my own appointments and meetings at my full-time job until I had to dash back home to get the girls to their spring music concert.

And the frantic pace continued today. 

I can’t remember the last time I got fast food for them, but I was willing to risk their possible gastrointestinal fall-out (haha!) to avoid cooking for the whole crew. Fortunately, the weather was perfect for a balcony picnic, so my slacker-mom decision felt a little more inspired.

It was actually a nice set-up to have one of “those talks” … a talk about terrorism, about the reality of the world, and the various ways they can take care of themselves should they ever find themselves in a scary situation. I was heartbroken to hear of the news coming out of Manchester, England this morning. Last night, a suicide bomber outside an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena killed at least 22 people, including children. It’s dominated the news and social media.

So, we talked about it over dinner, just as we have many times before. I speak of terrorism and random acts of violence the same way I speak to them about our house fire escape plan, or bicycle safety: I keep things calm, casual, and factual. My children are 13, 8, and 4. Of course, the group conversations are tailored to my son’s level of comprehension, and I follow up individually with each of them, but the message is always the same: we go over all the things we do as a family to keep ourselves as safe as possible when out and about.

For the older girls, I share a little more perspective based on my experiences. Having survived more than a few mortar attacks while deployed — to include that direct hit in Iraq as well as various hairy events in Afghanistan — I’m able to tell them exactly what it’s like to have a bomb detonate next to you, what it sounds like when someone is firing a frenzy of bullets outside your door. The initial confusion and body rattle. The smells. The feeling of panic setting in, and how to stop it. The reaction you may have when seeing critical injuries, and how to push that horror aside in order to do whatever needs to be done to help or survive.

I also try to bring a “bigger picture” perspective to these discussions. Being caught up in a terrorist attack is still pretty rare. When they DO happen, most of the deaths and injuries are a result of the ensuing panic. For example, from this recent attack in Manchester, a lot of the injuries were caused by the stampede of terrified people. That’s something that can happen at market places, movie theaters, community events, etc. for a number of reasons, and they should always keep that in mind when gathering in large crowds.

So, this evening over dinner, I answered their questions about this most recent attack, and did my best to calm their concerns, assuring them that there are SO MANY PEOPLE who are working hard every day to prevent such attacks from happening.

It’s unfortunate that this is the way of the world, the way of humanity, but knowledge is power, and I feel like giving them this practical knowledge is a benefit I hope they never have to use.