The last week has been an emotional one in Colorado. With the eyes of the world on a suburb that is just miles from our house, it’s impossible not to think about how to explain such darkness to your children. We don’t keep the news on at our house and, with it being summer break, the kids aren’t at school so they aren’t hearing the stories from other kids. I’ve read countless posts on discussing tragedy with children, all with great advice. Thus far, though, I haven’t found the words to explain to them what happened in Aurora. We discuss things like race and inequality with our kids. We try not to shy away from difficult conversations. Some would say they don’t need to know at their tender ages, but I definitely think there is a conversation.
At the same time, I’m in the midst of a journey that I desperately want to discuss with my kids. Helping them understand surrogacy from the beginning is extremely important to us. It’s also the most common question I’ve had as I’ve shared this journey with others – “What will your kids say?” It’s important to help them understand that it’s just another way that families come together. If they know from the beginning, they understand the process. If they know the process, it’s something that they see as normal.
So I told them – the latter. I snuggled into my older son’s bed and recalled the conversations we started having months ago about how families come together. I asked how he had explained it to me before (he forgot). We talked about how our family came together. I reminded him how lucky we are that his uncle came to be a part of our family before I was born and how lucky that uncle was that he then had two families. We talked about our friends who adopted their second daughter and how special that is for them. Luckily, we have relevant examples in our own family and with the people who are closest to us that demonstrate that there is not one particular way that people become a family. To me, it’s really a matter of pulling it all together to create the context for them.
I suggested that sometimes people aren’t able carry children and talked about the new friends that they met on their last adventure to the museum. In what seemed like a bit of an anticlimactic moment, I finally told him that our new friends couldn’t carry their baby so I’m going to carry it in my belly for him. His tired eyes grew big and he grinned wide, like he realized this was a special opportunity. Then came one of the top 5 the sweetest moments in parenting history. He put his arm around my neck and leaned in to kiss me on the nose, as if to say he was proud of this decision.
He asked only a couple of questions – can he visit in the hospital and how long will I be there. The next day, we started the same conversation with his younger brother. He ran off before we could finish. While they were digging for bugs in the garden, the wise elder tells his baby brother, “Mommy’s going to grow a baby in her tummy for our friends.” With a quick, “Okay,” his brother went right on digging. That’s about what I expected.
We can’t shelter our kids from the terrible things that happen in the world. We can’t protect them from being in harm’s way, nor can we create a bubble where they are only aware of the good. We can be honest about the fact that tragedies happen and people of all ages suffer as a result. We can temper that with the notion that we all have a role in shaping what happens in our world. We can aim to raise kids who understand how they can make positive contributions to their community. We can try our best to help them develop the skills to not just recognize right from wrong, but to know what to do about it.
At some point, I will explain the tragedy in our community. In reality, there are very similar messages in both conversations. We can choose to help others. We can choose to put our energy into kindness. I’ve now explained what I hope my kids will see as one example of this. When others choose a different route, we can still choose to be people who contribute in a positive way and inspire others to do the same. These are some things that, one day, I hope my kids will say.