When tornadoes hit
My first clue that something happened was a facebook status that said “praying for Oklahoma”. My heart and mind jumped to natural and man-made disasters – which would it be this time? I quickly popped over to my favorite online news source and there it was. Devastating tornadoes that had wreaked havoc and changed families, schools and communities forever. Unlike the recent tragedies at Sandy Hooks Elementary School and the Boston marathon, this one fell under the category of “act of God” and not of man.
I’ve been a mom for 25 plus years. Yet when these kinds of things happen, I still wonder and ponder, “what and how much do I tell my children?” We are well past the “just protect them from the bad news” phase of life. Honestly, that was too much of my modus operandi as a younger, less mature mom. I didn’t – and still don’t, by the way – know how to fully process and deal with these kinds of things, so how in the world can I help my children do so? Regularly these days, our ten year old daughter picks up the newspaper, sees a compelling picture and asks, “what is this about?” There are things going on in this world that I’d rather not discuss with a ten year old. But sometimes I don’t have much of a choice.
All children have very active imaginations and come in and out of developmental stages of fear. At some point, they all realize that this life and place that we live is not entirely safe. People die, including parents, bad things happen and life is just like that. Children who have lived through trauma have a heightened sense of anxiety around such losses and the grief side of life. They have anecdotal evidence in their very own lives that bad things do happen. And when the event in question is deemed “an act of God”, simple, pithy religious answers won’t cut it.
So as much as I’d like to reassure and promise my children that this kind of thing would never happen to our family, such a response would be delusional and dishonest. Truth is that shortly before we moved into our current home 21 plus years ago, a tornado flattened the Walmart less than a mile away. We are not immune from the suffering and sadness of this world.
With my kids, I am moving from being reactive in the face of disaster to being more pre-emptive in dealing with the difficult side of life. As parents, it is our job to address, in age appropriate ways, the sorrowful and difficult side of life with our children. That doesn’t mean that we share with them every awful and horrendous thing going on in our world. And sometimes they will catch wind of things before we are able to proactively talk to them. Then we do our best to receive their questions and thoughts and help them through the uncertainties.
This morning, I decided to be the one to tell our girls about the Oklahoma tornadoes (chances are very high that they would hear of it in school today) and then answer their questions from there. They weren’t easy questions and I struggled internally with answers. The truth is I don’t have any “wrap it up in a bow” kind of explanations for this kind of thing. After a short exchange, I told the girls that I’d like to pray out loud as we drove to school. After the warning by our rational thinker child to please not close my eyes while praying, I said something to the effect of , “Dear God, please be with the people in Oklahoma who have lost family, friends and homes. Please send people and resources to help them in this time of great loss and grief. If there is any way that you desire for us to respond, please show us how. Amen.”
As I drove back home after dropping them at school and heard a brief news report on the Oklahoma devastation, I shed tears. Just sorrowful tears – not mixed with anger and confusion like when the tragedies are man made, though I certainly would get any “mad at God” tears others may have. When I returned home, I picked up the newspaper, and skimmed through it as usual. Because of the graphic picture on the front page – see below – I did decide to recycle it right away so that our girls would not see it, at least not on their kitchen table. We don’t watch tv news in our home. God of mystery, whose ways are not my ways, I hope that as a mom, I was faithful on this day. Amen.
Posted on May 21, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged acts of God, acts of God and children, God and natural disaster, Oklahoma tornadoes, talking to children about natural disaster, talking to children about tornadoes. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.