Several years ago, I admitted that it had taken me a long time to understand what people meant when they said their children were “their teachers.” I finally understood. And this past week I have learned anew what that means. Over and over again, the things my children say and see startle me with their truth. I have an endless appetite for their perspective, filtered through a lens so free of assumption and bias as to contain revelations.
Watching Grace and Whit take in the Marathon bombings and then the wild, intense events of Friday was both deeply touching to me and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. For the Huffington Post, I wrote about what Friday morning was like. It was surreal. We woke up to a world that felt jaggedly separate from real life, to photographs of familiar streets deserted except for humvees and hundreds of police officers with long guns and heavy body armor, to an eerie silence punctuated by sirens and gunshots (we were able to hear the shots in Watertown from my open office window).
Friday night, exhausted from waiting and uncertainty, we sat down to dinner as a family. As she often does, Grace said grace. And her words moved me to tears. It seemed like an adult was speaking. She offered thanks to and asked for protection for all the policemen and doctors and first responders. She asked for grace for those hurt and for the families of those who had died. And then she said, “I feel really sad that it takes a tragedy like this to see all the good people and beautiful things in our life.” My head jerked up, tears spilled down my cheeks, and I squeezed her hand.
The kids went to bed in one room, as they have several nights this week. I tucked them into Whit’s bottom bunk together to read, and then returned to my desk. A few minutes later, through the open door, I heard Grace say to Whit, “You know, you have to remember, that for every one evil person, there are ten good ones. At least.”
On Saturday morning, the first thing we did was get in the car to go to our favorite breakfast spot, a diner in Watertown which had been at the center of the action on Friday. The team from CNN was standing in front of it at one point. I was happy to see that there was a line, that others, like us, had the impulse to go be in the world that we had feared just yesterday, to return with our business, our energy, our money to places that had suffered during the lockdown.
Whit, mumbling through a mouthful of chocolate chip pancake, threw his two most awful words at the attackers. “They’re donkeyholes,” he said. “Tionaries.” (A few weeks ago he pronounced someone a “dictionary without the tionary,” and that second word has become his favorite sort-of-bad word.)
“Russia must be ashamed of them,” Grace added from across the table. I nodded at her. And later she offered, “When we go to Storyland or anywhere that’s not here, and people ask where we’re from, I’m going to be so proud to say Boston. I know people will think: oh, that’s a strong city.”
After breakfast we came home and made brownies to bring to our local police station. Grace made a thank-you card as the brownies baked. Other than asking which color stripe came first in the flag (which I had to look up; the answer is red), she wrote it all without any prompting. When the brownies had cooled off, we went to the police station. We drove past Norfolk Street, and I felt the chill of something run up my spine, a reminder that even the most intensely familiar things, places, and people can contain unknowable, possibly terrifying terrain.
And then we went home for lunch with Matt and Whit, a haircut, a stop at the drycleaner, some family reading curled up on the couch. All afternoon the air was heavy with my sense of the gossamer veil between this life and what we most fear, with my awareness of how much we take for granted. As I have done so many times in my life, I squeezed my eyes shut and swore never to forget what a privilege it is, this normal, unexceptional life. I whispered fiercely to myself: i thank you god for this most amazing day.
Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox