Our Kid

“Mum, they said the guy who did it got a bomb and put it on his body, and that he died too with all those people… why did he do that, Mum?”

He wasn’t crying. He didn’t look scared. He was confused. And my heart broke.

This wasn’t the plan for today. Today the plan was clearly outlined in colour-coded labels in my new life-organising-planning app… it involved tidying the ridiculous mess in our post-weekend house, decluttering the kitchen… and a chunk allocated to ‘write blog post’. My mum-life had become massively overwhelming at the end of the previous week. Meltdown ensued. Solutions were sought. This time they came in the form of organisational skills (and Jesus, obvs). Time was blocked off for various activities (I’m not kidding when I tell you that showering was included in that) to ensure that goals (and basic hygiene) could be achieved. And one of those goals was getting back on the blogging. So today I was going to write. I had a topic in mind. I can’t even remember what it was now.

Because I live in Manchester. 2.7 miles from where last night an explosion killed (at last count) 22 people and injured many more. As I write, it seems more than likely that this was a suicide bomb attack. At a pop concert attended largely by kids. Really. Kids.

And now my kid was looking at me for answers.

We’d brought him into our bed at 7am when he woke up to explain a bit about what had happened. He’s my oldest and will be 7 years old next week. He’s thoughtful. He goes to a school we knew would not shy away from discussing what had happened with the kids. We live in a diverse area. Lots of his friends, classmates, and our neighbours are British asian muslims. And the desire of the staff at his school to foster unity, respect and love is amazing. They don’t want divisions arising from playground chat, gossip and misinformation.

We explained that a bomb had gone off in Manchester and that people had been badly hurt and some had died. We didn’t give specifics of how or how many. We explained it was very sad. We prayed together for those people, their families and for the emergency services. We made it known he could ask us ANYTHING. That it was okay to be worried, and that we were here if he was scared. I rationalised in my head that he would be fine. After all, Syrian kids deal with much worse on a regular basis.

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The day passed. I stayed away from the news. I invited friends round. We talked. They left. I played very loud worship music, reassuring myself of the correct order of the universe and stilling my own fears. I went out and about in the local area. A strange atmosphere. Surface eye contact with strangers is weird when you know you’re all deeply sad inside. Helicopters whirring overhead. Sirens not far way. It turns out arrests and controlled explosions were happening nearby. It was hard not to feel unnerved.

3pm. School pickup. And that’s when that question plunged into my heart like a knife.

“Mum, they said the guy who did it got a bomb and put it on his body, and that he died too with all those people… why did he do that, Mum?”

And I didn’t have anything anywhere near an answer. Panic struck, I faltered. I didn’t want him to have this much information. I felt violated. How could my innocent child know so much? How could I prevent him from worrying about what terror might lurk in crowds under the clothes of normal-looking people? What if I said the wrong thing? How matter-of-fact should I be. But suddenly the need to make a decision was gone… a couple of hot, fat tears rolled down my cheek as I finally looked into his eyes and said, “I don’t know… I don’t know. I really don’t know”.

All I could do was let him see that I didn’t have an answer. And how it was okay to be sad and confused about that.

And to talk about the helpers.  Today the helpers were a woman who led fifty terrified children to a safe place and looked after them til their parents got there, taxi drivers giving free lifts all night, deliveries of food and treats to NHS staff and emergency services, people turned away from blood banks as they were full, people opening their homes and businesses to help victims and emergency workers, nearly £300,000 raised to help families. The staff at my own church laying down every task they had planned for the day to open the building for prayer, looking to support any and all seeking comfort. Christian and Muslim leaders meeting each other in friendship and solidarity.  The vigorous intentional exchange of greetings with our muslim brothers and sisters as we passed in the street… an unspoken recognition that we will stay bonded despite the forces that seek to divide us. And some acts of kindness so heartbreaking I can’t share with him. A homeless man who removed nails from childrens’ limbs. A stranger nursing a dying child in his arms.

This is the heritage I want him to take from this dreadful, awful day. The worst I have had to parent through. I want him to know in real life examples that there is a great Light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness will not overcome it. I want him to be a helper.

candle

 

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