When the Iraq war started, I was in my very early 20’s. I was a journalist sitting in a small apartment in-the-middle-of-nowhere-Illinois watching it all unfold on T.V. surrounded by several of my colleagues.
I remember not being afraid. I’m not sure if that was because I was naive about the situation or because I was in that rare time of life where I felt somewhat powerful as a person – living on my own, making my own decisions, writing about other people’s problems. I also felt pretty confident that “we” understood what “we” were getting ourselves into and that we could “win” – whatever winning means in war.
To me, even in a post 9-11 world, the scariest monster was still the one under the bed.
Tonight as I heard about the airstrike on Syria, and this week as I saw the photos of the people and children from there suffering from chemical attacks, I wished for whatever made me feel so invincible in my 20’s.
Tonight I am scared. I don’t fully know what “we” are getting ourselves into this time. I don’t know that anyone really does.
Tonight I am thinking about my own children, safely asleep in their beds. I am afraid for the world that they will grow up in. I am scared about the images they will see as they grow through their formative years.
Part of me is worried they might not get to grow up at all. Part of me is worried that this will be the start of something that we cannot “win” or even finish.
All of me sees my babies’ faces in the faces of those dead children this week. I feel the anguish of the Syrian father who couldn’t let go of his sweet, 9-month-old twins. I ache for him. I sobbed with him. Because I have lost a child, I feel connected to him. Although as far as tragedies go, his is much worse.
I think that’s it right there though.
In my 20’s, I had nothing to lose. It was just me. I had no one I needed to watch out for, no one I needed to support. I had no one I needed to protect.
This time, as a parent, I have all of the above. I have these two, tiny humans who look up at me and expect me to protect them from scary noises and monsters, and in giving them life I’ve made a silent vow that I will do so. After all, that’s what parenthood is.
I always think that I can prepare for anything bad that can happen to us. If I have a spot picked out in the basement for tornados, if I have exit routes planned for fires, if I buy the safest vehicle and put them in the safest baby car seat…I tell myself if I can do all that, I can keep them safe.
The truth is, I can’t.
Monsters are tricky things. Sometimes they look like you and me. Sometimes they come out in the daytime. Sometimes they fly airplanes. Sometimes they lead countries. Many times you don’t know when they’re coming and they catch you off guard.
Those are the monsters I can’t save them from and it’s not fair.
It’s not fair that a father had to hold his children this week as they died in his arms. It’s not fair that you can do everything right as a parent but the world can still take them away.
It’s not true what they say. Nothing’s really fair in love or war, especially when you’re a parent. As a parent, you know that the scariest monsters are usually humanity’s own creations.