Parenting in an Age of Terror

This post is dedicated to the victims, survivors, and first responders of Sunday’s terrorist attack.

Less than 3 days ago, a domestic terrorist, standing by the window of his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay suite, opened fire on an unsuspecting crowd of 22,000 music fans enjoying an outdoor music festival.  At the time of this post, 58 Americans (not including the maniacal terrorist who unsurprisingly took the coward’s way out and sent himself on a one way trip to hell as cops were closing in) are dead while 527 remain hospitalized with serious injuries.

As an American citizen, I’m angry as hell. When’s it going to stop? When will the politicians in this country realize that the gun rights afforded to citizens via the 2nd Amendment are outdated and in need of major reform.  We aren’t living in a world filled with muskets. The majority of gun owners, as law-abiding as they are, aren’t part of any well-regulated militia. The British aren’t coming! What purpose do semi-automatic weapons serve? If you’re mentally stable enough to own a gun for the purpose of hunting and self-defense, than I’m happy for you. I hope you’re never done in by your weapon.  It is, after all, your right. However, there’s no need – ZERO NEED – for any civilian to be in possession of a weapon that can kill, at a minimum, 58 people in 9 minutes.

I wish I could say I’m hopeful that change is coming. But let’s be honest. If this country was unwilling to pass common sense gun reform after a mentally ill man slaughtered dozens of first graders, it’s highly unlikely that this act of terrorism will lead to any measurable change. Too many politicians are waiting for that sweet campaign reelection donation from the NRA.

As a parent of two young children, I’m terrified. I realize that my anxiety only exasperates my growing fears, but take a moment to reflect on the locations of previous mass shootings in America…

Music festival…

Church…

Nightclub…

Movie Theater…

Elementary School…

In the coming days, you’ll undoubtedly hear talking heads preach about needing Americans to stand tall in the face of fear. Don’t let the terrorists win! Years ago, I’d certainly take that advice to heart. I probably would’ve purchased tickets to a local concert the very next day in an attempt to throw up the figurative middle fingers to those who sought to paralyze American citizens in fear.

Fast forward half a decade and two children later…

I’d be lying if I said the Vegas shooting hasn’t left me feeling a bit apprehensive about the prospects of taking the kids to a highly attended event. However, I know I can’t let my own personal fears deprive my children of experiencing the simple joys of life. At the ages of 5 and 3, they deserve to see all this world (as crazy as it may be) has to offer. I can’t let the actions of a depraved individual sully my kids’ view of society. The terrorist in Vegas killed at least 58 innocent Americans while destroying the lives of thousands more. I’ll be damned if I allow my children to become second-hand victims of this unimaginable tragedy.

While I refuse to change my family’s day-to-day planned schedule of events, the massacre in Las Vegas has given me reason to pause and reflect upon my current parenting style. I do believe that I’m a good father. I try to help my children solve problems, praise them when they find success, and show them how I believe one human being should treat another. But I’m not perfect. I know that I have plenty of weaknesses as a parent to go along with my strengths. Unfortunately, my hectic schedule seldom gives me a chance to slow down, catch my breath, and consider my performance as a father. The attack on concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival has made me stop and realize that there is nothing more important in this world than enjoying each and every moment with the people we love. The sad truth is that in today’s age of terror, we never know when our time is up.

I encourage all of you – parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, etc. – to take a few moments and remind yourself of life’s gifts. Be proud of your strengths as a human being! Identify areas in need of self-improvement and work tirelessly to make needed changes for the sake of your happiness and the happiness of the ones you love. Let the hate of monsters fuel our love for each other. Over time, we just may find that we were able to beat back the ideologies of these terrorists by shining a light on the principles of humanity they seem hell-bent on destroying.

In closing, I’d like to share my personal goals that I’ve recently set for myself over the last two nights. While some may be quick fixes by simply being mindful, I know that others will take time. For the sake of my family, I’m ready for the challenge.

1.      Never pass up an opportunity for a hug, kiss, and a whispered “I love you.”

Now, please don’t go thinking I deprive my kids of hugs and kisses or refuse to say “I love you.” Sometimes, however, I find myself rushing out the door in the morning. Perhaps the kids were misbehaving, and I made a mad dash to the door to make it to work on time. In those moments, I have ended the morning with a half-hearted, “Have a good day!” It’s clear now that our time with our kids is fleeting. I want to express love for my children every single chance I get. If I’m a minute late for work than so be it. I’m going to make sure my kids know that I’m their biggest fan and I love them with everything I’ve got.

2.      Enjoy each other’s company.

Again, this one seems pretty bad without explanation. Obviously I enjoy being with my family. However, we’ve all reached that point where we’d love to run off to another room of the house, lock the door, and just binge watch some Netflix for a few hours. I’ve done it. My wife has done it. I’m sure you’ve done it! Looking back on those moments, however, I realize that many of those escapes were out of frustration due to behavior or just a selfish desire to watch a show in peace. I want to be better than that. I have time for myself when the kids are in bed. I need to be present when my kids just want me sitting next to them while watching Peppa Pig or being outside when they want to play soccer.

3.      Highlight the positive news from around the world.

As adults, it seems as if we only remember the negative news. We are conditioned to expect the worst when watching the nightly newscast or reading the morning paper. Now I’m not saying this trend is a cause of the uptick in anxiety and depression in adults, but it clearly isn’t helping. Our kids still have a chance to see the world in the most positive light possible. Highlight the good. They don’t need to hear all the bad just yet.

4.      Remind your children to always look for helpers when in need.

There are so many stories of heroism coming out of Las Vegas. Hundreds of concertgoers stepped up to help complete strangers in their time of need. I want to accentuate those acts of humanity in front of my children. While I wouldn’t necessarily say what happened to cause the sudden outpouring of help, it would not be hard to explain that something bad took place and many people came to the aid of those in need. I would love for my kids to know that should they ever be faced with danger, someone will be there willing to help. I also want them to have a true desire to be one of those people that would step up in a time of crisis to assist others.

5.      Reinforce the need for a world full of empathy, love, and respect.

Empathy, love, and respect for all human beings will be required of us all if we are to rid our world of the dark cloud of  hatred currently tangling above us. Let us instill these traits in our children now, so our country’s future returns to the clear, blue skies we once knew.

Parenting is already one of the toughest job in the world. Parenting in an age of terror, quite honestly, makes it the scariest undertaking possible. I hope that we all take a moment to hug the ones we love, tell them how much they mean to us, and challenge ourselves to be the best parents we can be. We may not be able to rid the world of terrorism now, but we can do our part to ensure our children grow up in a world without evil.

To the victims of the Las Vegas massacre, may you all rest in peace.

To the survivors of the Las Vegas massacre, I wish for your speedy recovery.

To the first responders and brave citizens who dodged bullets to help the injured and wounded, thank you for your selflessness.

Until next time…

Ryan

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