When Things are Tough

Updated 9/4/2015 to add:

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Updated to add this:

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No, I’m not in a funk, but I did see something so terrifyingly sad yesterday that it’s gotten me thinking.

How do I talk to my kids about things that are real and really hard but not rob them of their childhood?

Yesterday on twitter, I saw pics of a young Syrian boy washed up dead on a Turkish beach. He looks to be about two. He is fully dressed. He even has shoes on. He looks like he is sleeping.

Just the day before, the “on this day” app on facebook showed me this picture:

William Asleep sucking his thumb 2 William asleep sucking his thumb

and earlier in August these pictures showed up in my feed

William One YEAR old beach

Ben and William in the ocean

That’s William in the summer of 2010. Pictures of him asleep and at the beach. The precious baby boy I saw in those pictures on twitter, by the grace of God and only by His grace, was not mine, but how I saw my baby in those pictures.

A mother’s heart hurts when she sees so many things wrong in this world: dead refugee children washed up on beaches, aborted infants, children who are malnourished and hungry. And it’s a mother’s duty to teach her children about these difficult things and our moral and ethical responsibilities to others who cannot advocate for themselves: the poor, the displaced, the unborn. Pope Francis’ teachings on those responsibilities has convicted many a person to re-examine how they donate time and money and their love of their fellow man. Even before Pope Francis, Saint John Paul II said this:

No one can consider himself extraneous or indifferent to the lot of another
member of the human family.  No one can say that he is not responsible for the
well-being of his brother or sister (cf. Genesis 4:9, Luke 10:29-37, Matthew
25:31-46).”
–Pope John Paul II

And I know I need to teach my children that there are children in this world who were born into horrible circumstances and will not survive to see the birthdays my kids are celebrating now. We have talked about it. But how to sink that gravity in. I truly do not want to show them the pictures of the little boy I saw, both out of respect for the dignity of that soul’s life here on earth and in heaven, but because somehow, that’s too real. It’s too much for a six and eight year old. I also do not show them the pictures of dismembered fetuses some pro-lifers enjoy showing everyone.

With October and “Respect Life” month coming up, I’m preparing for some very serious discussions with my boys. I’m looking for books and other materials geared toward younger kids that not only illustrate our duties toward one another but also the gravity of what others’ face. We donate toys and clothes, but I don’t know that they really “get” why other kids need those things. And why they are so blessed to be able to give them away.

This isn’t a post about answers, but questions. How do we fulfill St John Paul II’s mission of not being indifferent when it comes to our kids? How do we live up to Pope Francis’ expectations of more than lukewarm Christianity? And how to we keep our kids somewhat still childlike in the process? How much should we expect of them in their responses are their individual ages? How much is too much when it comes to exposure?

We are charged with raising saints. These are tough questions we all need to ponder no matter the age of our children.

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