(April 15, 2013; 9:12 p.m.): About eight hours ago, the world changed for the worse again. It changed in the way the world changed on 9/11 or during Oklahoma City or during Columbine or during Sandy Hook. The two explosions that occurred more than four hours into the Boston Marathon were world-changers on a planet filled with world-changers. It was a domestic bombing, like 9/11 and Oklahoma City, that has scared and saddened us. The death of a child, like in Columbine and Sandy Hook, has made us weep for the future’s loss and the loss of their future.
Seven hours ago, my 3-year-old children went to bed for their daily nap. I kept the TV off when they were downstairs, but as soon as their bedroom door closed and their turtle night-light flickered to life, I immersed myself in the news coverage. And the anger. And the sadness. And the goddammit-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-world of it all.
I seethed and I teared up and I tweeted, and my children slept, blissfully unaware that the world outside our doors had changed once again.
They’re 3, and the world to them is infinitely good. They spend their days playing and learning in preschool and going for walks with mommy and daddy. They love Sesame Street and Toy Story and their baby dolls and looking at the pictures from our recent Disney cruise. They don’t know heartbreak or evil or the goddammit-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-world of life. Their sadness leaks out when a toy is lost. Nothing more and nothing less. I envy them for that.
Four hours ago, after my kids had emerged from their slumber (and the TV had been darkened), my daughter pulled out a pair of my wife’s brown shoes. She traipsed around the kitchen with her oversized footwear, pulled out her orange toy binoculars and declared, “I seeee you, Daddy.” I turned away from the sadness on Twitter and smiled.
Then, I helped her and her brother build a bear circus* out of Lego blocks.
*The other day, we built a caterpillar zoo. Today it was a bear circus. Somehow these things exist in my kids’ minds.
Every parent, I’m sure, ponders their children and the innocence that eventually will disappear forever. The country cries, and soon enough, the kids will cry along with it. But for now, they laugh and they drink their milk and they chase each other around the island in our kitchen.
Two hours ago, a buddy of mine tweeted to me that it was difficult having to explain what had happened in Boston to his 5-year-old son. What was his reaction? I asked. Did he understand?
“He was confused that an explosion could be real,” my buddy wrote.
The world probably changed today for his child, just like it did for all of us. Explosions are real. Evil does exist. A road race can lead to destruction and death.
Ten hours from now, when my kids wake up for a brand new day of sunshine and innocence, they won’t know any better. But they will soon enough, and that’s when our job as parents will change. We will have to be the ones to teach them people are good and that life can be beautiful. And that the loss of innocence can be a blessing. That it teaches us how to survive.
Their world, at some point, will change. Hopefully, we’ll teach them how it can be for the better.