Trying to Explain the Unexplainable to My Daughters

This morning before my daughters headed off to school I had to sit them down and tell them about an unimaginable tragedy that had happened yesterday in our NYC neighborhood.  Two children were allegedly stabbed to death by their nanny, and one of those children was a student at their school.  Knowing that there could be reporters outside the school, and that they would be hearing about it from other kids and teachers, I wanted them to hear it from me first.

As a parent, what happened is beyond comprehension, and when I found out last night that this was a family in our school it made it that much more real.  This wasn’t a head line, this was something that happened in our community.  It’s hard for people to understand that in a huge city like New York small ties bind residents, and nowhere is that more true than at school.  As we gear up for the first big fundraiser of the year, a huge festival of Halloween fun for families that relies on over 200 volunteers to make happen, there is now an unmistakable sadness that will permeate this kid-centric event. And most likely we will be having discussions today as to whether or not to even hold the event.

When I told my daughters about the tragedy I wasn’t sure how they would process the news.  They are ten, the “seniors” of their elementary school.  They feel protective of the younger students, take huge delight in having kindergarten book buddies that they read to once a week, and take pride in having new responsibilities as 5th graders.  What happened yesterday goes against everything a child is taught – that their parents would only leave with them in safe hands, that your home is a place of security.

But, at ten they are old enough to start to understand that random and sometimes horrible things do happen.  That you have to be grateful for the good, and not take your loved ones for granted.  It’s not an easy lesson to learn for anyone, let alone kids.  As a parent I can’t begin to imagine how those parents will recover from the horrible loss of two of their children.  And, as a mom I struggle with how to explain the unexplainable, but also know that now that my daughters are on the verge of middle school their awareness of the random cruelty and violence in the world around them is only going to increase.

While their school brings in counselors and deals with the difficult job of trying to make things as normal as possible, I know that my girls are going to have endless questions here at home over the next few weeks.  There will never be a way to answer them.  Maybe that’s the first real part of growing up – knowing some questions don’t have answers, that you have to accept that and still keep your heart and mind open, and live your life with hope and optimism.