I woke up this morning to the news that six people, which later rose to seven, had died as a result of the London Bridge attack last night.
My children are only three months old, two and five. So I haven’t had to do what so many other parents of older children have. I haven’t had to explain it to them. They don’t know about it, nor do they need to. But when they are old enough to be aware of such events, I hope I shall remember this quote, which Sleep is for the Weak posted after the Manchester attack last month:
Over the coming days and weeks there will be funerals and memorial services for the people who were killed, just as there has been in Manchester. Friends, colleagues and family members will stand up and tell others how much they loved the deceased, how special they were, what they admired most about them.
And while I don’t know a thing about the lives and relationships of the people who were killed last night, I do believe that the experience of most human beings is this:
We wait until people have died to tell them that we love about them.
We do not wait, when people are alive, to tell them what we don’t love.
I do it all the time.
Yesterday for example, I spent most of the day telling my two year old Raff, what I didn’t like about his behaviour. This very long list included getting up at 5.40am/breaking into the freezer for ice cream/climbing into his baby sister’s cot/riding the dog/weeing on the carpet/stealing the kitchen scissors/snapping the rhododendron/ biting his brother’s toe/treating ‘no’ like ‘yes’ /wiping his Shreddies all over the table/riding his toy quad bike straight into the patio table/trying to drink his dad’s gin etc…etc…etc.
And although I also told him that I loved him, hugged him, laughed with him and kissed him, overall his experience of his mum yesterday, was one of displeasure and criticism.
Of course he needs to be corrected when he’s doing something that is wrong or dangerous or harmful. But he can be corrected gently. Lovingly even. It’s a tricky concept for a two year old to get – that he’s still loved even though his behaviour is not. But as his mum, it’s up to me to ensure he understands it. To balance all the ‘what you’re doing wrongs’ with the ‘what you’re doing rights’.
The attacks in Manchester and London have reminded me of something I ordinarily try to forget. That I, or anyone in my family, could be gone in an instant. So doesn’t it make more sense to show the people I love most, that I love them, instead of spending my time focusing on what they’re doing wrong? I take it for granted that there will always be another day to make things right between me and my children. These attacks remind me that this might not be the case.
I am not trying to draw positives from last night’s despicable act of cruelty and stupidity. There are none. But there are responses. To focus on ensuring my children know they’re loved, is the response that seems most sensible to me.