The other day I was tracking a Facebook conversation on a friend's page where, apparently, some folks had commented and had their comments deleted by said friend because they weren't safe for kids as far as she was concerned, and she has several youngish kids as friends.
One person was taking the position that he preferred to keep it "real", saying among other things that "innocence is ignorance" and a person isn't doing kids any favors by keeping the truth of how the world works from them. This got me thinking about how, growing up, I somehow got the idea that happy people are stupid, and the happier, the stupider. Over the years though, and after years of life and therapy, I've come to change my views somewhat. My current thinking comes down to two central ideas: One, that innocence is (as the above commenter astutely pointed out) a fairly recent phenomenon in human childhood, and corresponds with the level of priveldge one has. Two, what is "real"? I think when we talk about keeping it real, being real, etc., we're usually talking about the horrors of life, the negative stories of the world. But isn't the love and joy just as real as the horror?
Today, I woke up to the news that 12 people had been killed at a screening of Dark Knight Batman in Aurora, Colorado. Horrible, sad news. I felt just sick to think about the grief their loved ones must be feeling. I played a song, I posted some words on my Facebook page. And then, I went about my day. Packing a lunch for myself, our two daughters, and my parents, who are visiting from the Midwest and had plans to take us to Vashon Island to visit some friends. Seeing my husband off to work, getting dressed, getting breakfast, cleaning up. Getting on the ferry, buying criminally over priced treats for the kids, getting off the ferry. Breathing the amazing air, fresh with the scent of recent rain. Watching an egret dive for fish in the Puget Sound. Watching my two year old climb a ladder, and my five year old push her little sister on the "big kid swing" higher than I would ever consider doing. Watching the little one hanging on tight, wind in her hair and glee in her face. Watching Grandma and Grandpa play with the girls, and visiting an old family friend on their farm. Visiting chickens and horses, cats and dogs.
And still, the victims of today's massacre are no less dead, their loved ones no less aggrieved. But at the same time that the joy doesn't cancel out the horror, neither does the horror cancel out the joy. Innocence is a privilege, and one I feel lucky to be able to give my children for as long as they'll allow. The joys and miracles of life are no less real in the face of senseless tragedy. Indeed, it is in times of senseless rage, senseless grief, that we must lean into those little miracles. The glow of a cat's soft fur, the clumsy answer to a child's question "How did everyone get born?"
So yes, let's get real. Let's talk about real things, heartful things. Things that are horrific, things from which we must never turn away. And then, let's remember the egret, the trees, and the smell of the air. Because those things, after all, are why we're here.