Explaining Our World – I

“Mummy, why were 800 people locked in a boat and left to drown?”

How the hell do you explain the worst Refugee Tragedy in Europe to a 9-yr-old?

We shield our kids from so much – swearing on TV (and at home), sexually explicit content, unsuitable friends, unhealthy food, unhealthy behaviour… This list seems endless. There’s always something that I’m guiding them away from.

Of course, as they get older, the horrible stuff that we’ve tried so hard to lock out of our pure, innocent babies’ lives creeps in slowly; a viscous oil ready to smother everything in its tracks, never to be washed off.

We start to let them hear swearing on TV from time to time, usually with a comment about how rude those people are for using that language. We don’t change channel when a particularly passionate kiss fills the screen in our living room. We start to let them hear the evening news without speaking loudly over the gruesome bits. And so they learn.

She didn’t ask me about the Refugee Tragedy on the first news segment that we watched together, nor the second, but, by the third, she’d clearly absorbed enough to pique her interest. And so the question came.

How can I explain to her that, whilst her worst fears are of spiders and being put to bed too early, and her cries have been over scraped knees and jammed fingers, there are some children in our small world who have screamed at the sight of gallons of water pouring in through a locked door. They’ve looked at the panicked faces of the ones who are there to protect them always, and have seen not calm authority but, terror.

Parents, helpless to protect the most precious souls, have screamed louder and grabbed their babies to their breasts, knowing that they are impotent in their most basic of duty. Some prayed to their god for survival: some prayed for a quick end.

Is it enough to tell her that bad things happen in this life and we must learn to accept them? Should I tell her that, despite the terrible risks associated with the travels of refugees, their plight in their home land is so desperate that they will take any chance of escape, no matter the odds? Shall I tell her that these people, like her and I in many ways, were escaping from a country whose government attack them with chemical weapons and who see beheadings and torture in their streets on a daily basis, always fearing that they could be next? Will I tell her that God needed these people as Angels in heaven? Or that there is no God if he allows this to happen?

I don’t have the answers. And whilst I cry for these families, I pray to God or I send a message to the universe or I thank my lucky stars that this wasn’t us.


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