What we should, or maybe shouldn’t, tell our children about Paris

Like everyone I’ve found it pretty hard to tear myself away from the news since the awful, awful events of last Friday.

There’s no doubt that currently some truly terrifying things are taking place on our planet, and the words ‘devastating’ and ‘tragic’ barely do them justice.

Listening to a radio phone-in show a couple of days back I heard a heart-breaking call from a new dad who admitted sitting by his baby son’s cot sobbing inconsolably for half an hour just because he feels so guilty about having brought this innocent life into a world that in many ways is being torn apart.

I’ve thought a lot about what he said since, especially concerning Mini-me and Blue-eyed boy. About whether I feel guilty in the same way about my children – unquestionably yes.

About whether I should even try to explain to my beautiful, bright four-year-old what has been going on – where would you even begin?

And about whether what’s happening should change how I feel about their safety or how we go about our everyday lives.

Well the only half decent answer I have come up with is to the last question. And the answer, at least concerning how we choose to live, is no.

In the last few days I’ve heard people discussing whether it’s wise to go to big events like football games or concerts any more, debating over the security of using public transport and chewing over trips to iconic places like London.

I once had a debate with a friend about her decision to ‘never get on a tube again’ after the 7/7 bombings, and while I could – and still do – understand her fears, the point of view I held then is the one I do now.

If you don’t board that bus, if you let the doors of the underground train close with you still on the platform, if you cancel a planned trip to an amazing city like our capital, you are letting them win.

They want us to be terrified, to alter how we go about our daily routine, to second-guess every decision we make in case we or our loved ones might end up in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time.’ And I for one don’t want to ever give them the satisfaction.

I’m very well aware that this is all too easy for me to say.

Although I was commuting into London on the morning of 7/7 I was merely evacuated from a station, I was lucky enough to not witness any of the horror first hand.

I couldn’t tell you what it’s been like living through the past few days in Paris. All I’ve done is shed tears watching pictures on a television screen, sitting in awe of the bravery and dignity shown by the people of the City of Light.

I haven’t lost a friend or family member in a terrorist atrocity.

But as well as that phone call to a radio station the other thing that has really hit home since Friday night is the open letter written by bereaved husband Antoine Leiris to his wife Helene’s killers, after she perished inside the Bataclan theatre.

He writes incredibly movingly about refusing to hate the people who murdered his partner and the mother of his little boy. He eloquently states that he and his child will grow strong together, and that his boy will be happy and free all the days of his life.

So perhaps this is really what we should be telling our children.  About how lucky they are to live where and as they do, about all the little things they take for granted every day.

What I’m personally going to hold onto is the wonder in Mini-me’s eyes as we walked through Covent Garden at the weekend, taking in the Christmas lights, the market hall and the street performers.

And that there is still far, far more love in this world than hate.


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