I am the first to admit that I know very little about world news. I have very little knowledge of the situation in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq and other Middle East countries, too many to count. I don’t read a newspaper, there is little opportunity to watch the news, and the snippets of information that I do know have been gleaned from Twitter, Facebook or through conversations with friends where I have nodded along, completely oblivious.
And my lack of knowledge isn’t through ignorance and is certainly not through disinterest or a lack of empathy. It is through fear. As someone who already lives with crippling anxiety and irrational thoughts, I am absolutely terrified of switching on the TV, opening a newspaper, and hearing about the atrocities happening every single day in our world.
But on Friday night, like most of the world, I was glued to the TV well into the early hours, watching in pure horror and disbelief at what was unfolding. Paris, a place that I have visited several times, a place that holds such beautiful memories for me, where I have experienced nothing but happy times. A place just a few hundred miles from where we are now. And suddenly, it all felt very real.
Because I’ll be honest with you, I have been guilty of hearing about the situation in Syria, in all of the surrounding countries, and it felt like a world away. Yes it concerned me, yes it saddened me to think just how awful it was, how desperately frightening it must be for those people, how devastating that such terrible things are going on in our world. But it didn’t feel like my world. Until now.
Seeing footage of bodies shot down in the streets I have walked and places I have visited suddenly made it seem so much more tangible. I felt incredibly ashamed that I had been so guilty of burying my head in the sand for all this time, ignoring a crisis that I had told myself would not affect us, that we did not need to worry about. But seeing it on the news this weekend really brought it home. This is really happening. This horror, this tragedy, is going on not just in Paris but every single day in countries all around the world. Children as young as mine are being killed, families wiped out, innocent people losing their lives due to this nonsensical battle between the human race.
On Saturday morning when Lewis finally dragged himself out of bed, I called him into our room and explained to him about the attacks in Paris. And I watched as the look of absolute panic flashed across his face and he asked me, “Will they come and get us next?”. And I wished that I had the answers. Because what are we supposed to tell our children about the state of the world? How can we promise to keep them safe when there is no way of knowing who walks our streets or what devastation is about to unfold?
As parents it is our natural instinct to want to protect our children, both physically and emotionally. There are times when I wish that I could shut the door, un-plug the television, disconnect the wi-fi and shield my children from all of the horrible things that are reported daily. I wish that I could wrap them in cotton wool, hold them close and promise them that they are safe, that nothing bad will ever happen, that the world is a wonderful place to be.
Instead, Lewis and I had a lengthy discussion about the attacks, about ISIS, religion and the refugee crisis. I was amazed by Lewis’s maturity and depth of understanding and yet saddened at how afraid he looked, how concerned he was about the possibility of attacks here in our home town, or in larger cities where our extended families live. And sat there, hearing my child voice his fears about terrorism, about bombings, shootings, horrific acts of violence, I felt the knot of fear in my stomach grow and grow. What kind of world have we brought our children into? What kind of life can we expect to live if there is always this threat hanging over us, this constant fear of never knowing when the next attack will strike?
But then I thought about all of those people, not just in Paris, but in countries across the globe who have lost their lives or are fleeing from danger. I thought about all of those parents mourning their child, the children crying for their parents, the families torn apart by war, by hate, by terror. I thought about all of those lost lives who don’t gain the same publicity as those in the Western world, those who lie in mass graves and never even make the news reports. I thought about each and every one of those people whose lives have been affected by these treacherous acts, who may have escaped with their life but whose injuries will stay with them forever.
And I think that we owe it to all of those people to continue to live our lives. We owe it to them to fight back, to stand tall, to be unafraid, to explore, to travel, to simply live a life.
For if we begin to live our lives constantly looking over our shoulder, to carry round this heavy weight of nagging fear, then what kind of message are we passing on to our children? As parents, we owe it to our children to educate them without fear, to prepare them in an age appropriate manner and to make sure that they feel safe, secure, protected. But we also owe it to our children to raise them in a way that these horrors don’t penetrate their daily thoughts, to shield them in a way that they can remain care-free, to protect them in a way that they can still just be children. And that is the most important thing.
I think the real fear here is that we will spend our whole lives worrying about what may or may not happen until ultimately, we forget to live. And although I cannot promise my children that there wont be attacks here in the UK, I can promise them that I will do whatever I can to keep them safe. I can promise them that although the world can be a scary place, I will do my best to show them just how wonderful it can be.