Everything’s a little bit quiet today. The sun, which started brightly, has even muted itself behind the gathering clouds and the usually cheerful birds are tweeting in whispers. Driving home from this morning’s subdued networking meeting I was struck by the regular silences on the radio. Presenters, infamous for their humour and constant banter, today stuck for words. Listeners, phoning in to say their piece, struggled to speak round the pain in their hearts.
Today is a sad day for Manchester.
For us all.
Manchester is my adopted city, and I love it. More importantly, I love its people, for they are the most amazing I have ever had the pleasure to meet. So many of those I have come to know and love since moving here were caught up in the events of last night.
Scrolling through my news feed this morning there are numerous posts of people announcing they are safe – not from an attention seeking “it could have been me” perspective (as many are suggesting) but from a genuine it could have been them, because they were there. It could actually have been them, or their children, or their loved ones.
This shit is real. It always has been, but right now it’s on our doorstep.
While my heart goes out to everyone today, my mind turns to my babies, especially my little girls. They sit and watch the news with us. They invariably hover around my shoulder as I scroll through Facebook. They see things, they sense things; they cannot be protected from this.
And nor should they. They need to know that the world is not always a beautiful and safe place, but equally, they need to know that there are beautiful people in it.
How then do you balance all that? How do you inform any child of the realities of terrorism, without inadvertently letting the terrorists “win”?
I am proud of the fact that in the 8 years I’ve been doing this parenting gig, I’ve never told another parent how to do their job. I’m not about to start now; I merely express the opinion that trying to hide this from your child, especially if you are raising a proud Mancunian, is not a good idea.
You cannot hide this, it’s everywhere. If you don’t explain this to them, if you don’t tackle it head on, they will fill in the blanks, and God only knows what they will come up with. The reality is terrifying, it’s heart breaking, it’s shocking but their imaginations are vivid and for them, the blanks may be so much more frightening.
For us, we have sat and talked. We have reminded our girls that they can ask questions, at any time, about anything. If they tell us they’re scared, we won’t tell them not to be. Hell, I’m scared, I refuse to lie to them and make them think it’s all OK. It isn’t. Not whilst maniacs are running around in the world willing to kill themselves, and innocents, for the sole purpose of creating fear.
I cannot dismiss their fear, because they need to know it’s OK, that it’s a valid response. They need to know when they’re scared, they can talk to us and not feel that they are being dismissed. Equally, they need to know that the world does not fall neatly in to goodies and baddies. That baddies aren’t lurking on every corner, so that everything becomes a potentially terrible ordeal.
Yes, like Mrs Rogers, I am going to look for the helpers. I shall point them out and I shall sing their praises. I will tell my children about the people who drove others home, who opened their doors to strangers, who donated blood. But I shall not pretend that evil doesn’t exist or it can’t touch our perfect little lives.
Because last night evil arrived on our doorstep, in our community. It struck in the heart of the venue I was at only the other week, where I have laughed with my precious babies. It is here, in the middle of everything we hold dear, there are armed police in our shopping centre this morning, there is fear everywhere; but no, it won’t win.
We will not stop. We will keep moving forward and we will continue to support those who need our love and compassion. And our children need to see that pain so they can really understand the goodness that comes out of it, from the people who really deserve our attention.