What follows is a template, of sorts. In a high, soft pitch, I pipe, “Good morning! It’s today! And do you know what you’re going to do today?”
This is the exact moment at which his dreams dissipate and the reality of the day’s details reveal themselves in synchronization with the movement of his covers to his feet.
“We’re going to the Orioles game!” he shouted with the alertness and fervor of a 5-year-old boy at recess.
“It’s not my decision,” I told him. “We can’t go because the game is cancelled.”
It hadn’t been made official yet, but when Saturday night’s peaceful protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody on April 19, turned violent last night, the Orioles/White Sox game was postponed. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake established a curfew for the city effective 10 p.m., so I assumed that those factors coupled with the declared State of Emergency and the installation of the National Guard would result in another cancelled ballgame. But how do you explain all of that to a kindergartener?
“Something really sad and really bad happened. A man named Freddie died when he was with the police, and a lot of people are really mad and sad about it. Some of them are breaking things, and stealing things, and lighting fires, and throwing things to try to hurt people.
But there are a lot of people who live and work and go to school in the city, like G (my mom) and Becky (his godmother), so we should pray for all of them and their families.”
I don’t know if I said the “right thing.” I don’t know if there’s a “right thing” that can be said about all of this. Some stories are so complicated they’re impossible to write.
At the same time, I try to shield my children from graphic images. Our brains retain images, attach strong emotions to them, and readily retrieve them when cued. Exposure to excessive violent imagery is linked to anxiety, desensitization, and violent behavior. Even adults should avoid overdosing on disturbing visual media.
Some parents don’t have a choice because they’re living in the midst of civil unrest here or utter devastation in Nepal. Children throughout the world find themselves the witnesses to and victims of tragedies beyond our privileged imaginations. For them, we must pray.