How Will I Raise Both My Children in This Violent World?

For over a week we’ve been expecting the imminent birth of our second son.

5520439491_beb66a0e23_bOur first son knows about violence. He likes to pretend to punch things, throw spikes, burn and freeze. He knows that if you cut somebody, there’s blood, that he wants to kill bad guys. At the age of four, his penchant for terror worries me already. Will he grow up to respect human life in the way I want him to?

As we wait for our second child to be born, we see more horrible killings in the news, the reactions to the deaths of police officers, those sworn to protect the public from, among other things, violence. I try not to be a pessimist about things. The world can tend to be such a wonderful place when we don’t screw it up. I want to pass that lesson on, for one.

And I know the obvious, to raise my children that people are different colors, and that’s all there is to that. That silly people make a bigger stink about it than it is. That people act and dress differently too, and that’s ok, because it’s culture. That people like to treat people based on silly things like how they look. That people sometimes get so angry that they want to hurt people, and that’s not right.

Why am I going to have to raise my children to understand that not all police officers are good? Why do there have to be towns where parents feel they have to tell their children that “not all police officers are bad?”

Why am I going to have to explain my children, when they get older, all these other complexities? That not all minorities are victims, that not all white people are privileged, that not all violence is hate-motivated, that not all responses to bad news are good responses, that not all crimes are reported fairly, that riots are rights whether after a football game or a gun-down, that you can disagree with someone and both of  you kind of be right.

And that’s just regarding this week.

It’s scary out there. But it’s right here.

I live in a town that is very pleasant to live in. Even with the tragedy of 4/16 just a little over a decade ago, we are not a town defined by tragedy. But tragedy can visit us, and we know it. I’m beyond either assuming it will never hit my children, or that I should stay up worrying whether it will and how I can protect them from it. But I’m still prompted to ask from time to time.

How will I?

A child of a friend of mine said to his parents at bedtime, “I’m afraid.” “Of what?” said the dad. “Oh, no I’m not,” said the child. “God said don’t be afraid because I’m with you always.”

Sometimes the kids say it best.

It does’t cure all the fear and apprehension. Not any more than praying to God saved Christ from sweating blood. But it brings me the only kind of hope I know in a dark world, the hope of the very center of the book of Lamentations, a promise in the middle of tears that God’s steadfast love never ceases, his mercy never ends, that we still have new mornings, and new hopes.

This week, as I hear bad news of death and await good news of life, I know I want to teach my children that vengeance is in God’s hands, that Justice is important, and that reconciliation is more important. I want to teach them that they should not be spoiled, even though I kind of am spoiling my children already, and that they should never feel entitled. I want to teach them that if they ever go to college and do something lewd to an unconscious girl, I will not defend their actions, and I will pray that they serve their time in prison justly, sons or not sons.

I shouldn’t let bad news from other places be the kickstart to my mediations over how I should raise my children. I should focus on the good news. The Gospel is a fine thing to raise my children on. Help me do that, village. God help us all.


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