Talking to my son about the Boston Marathon: A mom reflects
The Nichols had to tell their 11-year-old son about the Boston Marathon bombings — he'd been upset when they hid the Newtown, Conn. headlines from in him December. Now, a day after the Boston Marathon, Martha Nichols mulls over their decision.
(Page 2 of 2)
“Why are you whispering?” he asked.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Then I shot into the next room, where my son was still sending Legolas the Elf into the fray against a host of Orcs. I told him we had to turn on the TV now.
Several hours after it happened, we watched the bombs explode, over and over, my boy whimpering in my arms. I cried when I heard an 8-year-old had been killed.
My son hugged me then, trying to comfort me. That wasn’t right. We can’t let fear…we can’t. But I couldn’t stop staring at the screen, the replay of the two explosions, aerial views of the library and Trinity Church, the news ticker about dead and wounded in local hospitals, about what President Obama said, about a moment of silence.
“How could anybody do that?” my son asked.
“It was such a beautiful day,” my husband kept saying on the phone.
Memories, memories — what do you do with all the memories, except remember? Exhaustion followed the shock and tears, as I remembered the paranoia after 9/11, how it had sapped our collective spirit.
Just this past weekend, my son and I took a “photo excusion” around the neighborhood, snapping pictures of flowers and sidewalks and storefronts. I captured him huddled over a crocus with his camera for a closeup — and his skinny arms stretched in a dance move up a concrete wall— and our shadows together on an unmarred sidewalk.
Today I told him that we have to live our lives as if we aren’t afraid. I told him it would be okay. I have no way of knowing — and he knows that, too — but I said the words. The fear that whacked me to earth is not his yet, and fear is what defeats joy. The most terrible thing can become beautiful, too, if we focus on resilience, on innocence regained. I didn’t tell him this, thinking that people, grown-up people, need to experience a whole series of banner headlines, of shock and recovery, for such beauty to make sense.
And yet, maybe he — a Vietnamese adoptee, a not-so-little boy who now worries about all the kids in orphanages we saw on our last trip to Vietnam, who wonders in a new way if that could have been him — maybe he does understand. Certainly I should never underestimate what he doesn’t say.
RECOMMENDED: Are you a Helicopter Parent? Take our quiz
When we finally sat down to dinner Monday evening, he wanted to light one of his candles. A memorial, he said, just as we lit a candle for my mother, who died a few months ago. His candle burned beautifully, glowing pink and blue from within.
“Can I blow it out?” he asked.
“Why?” I said too quickly.
“Because I want to.”
“Because it’s fun,” my husband said. “Then you can light it again. Right?”
My boy looked at me, the mischievous spark back in his eyes. He grinned.
Éomer and Aragorn stood together on the Deeping Wall. They heard the roar of voices and the thudding of rams; and then in a sudden flash of light they beheld the peril of the gates.
“Come!” said Aragorn. “This is the hour when we draw swords together!”
….Charging from the side, they hurled themselves upon the wild men. Andúril rose and fell, gleaming with white fire. A shout went up from the wall and tower: “Andúril! Andúril! goes to war. The Blade that was Broken shines again!”
— from The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien