What kind of a world are we raising our kids in?
I have written and re-written this blog post over and over again since the horrific events in Nice last week. Words literally fail me and my emotions changed so much over the first few days too, that something I wrote in the morning seemed so wrong by the afternoon.
For those who don’t know me, I moved to Nice as a student in 1996 for a 5 months stint at the university there as an Erasmus student. I returned in the summer of 1997 to work in a bar in the old town and generally chill out before my final year at university. After university I decided to spend the summer of 1998 there with a couple of friends I’d met there. I bought a 3 month return ticket and went back to work at the same bar. Within a week I’d decided to stay longer than the 3 months. 12 years and 18 days later I finally left Nice and returned to the UK, with a French husband, French/English daughter, French dog and French cat in tow. You can find out more about my journey here, but you should know that leaving Nice is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
The brutal attack on Bastille Day in Nice shocked me to the core for so many reasons. The first words I uttered were “but that’s attacking families and kids!” as we used to take a young Léna to see the fireworks on the Prom, at the end of our road in Nice. I experienced panic and fear as I tried to check in with all our friends and family living there, and on holiday there at the time. I experienced relief as everyone was accounted for. I then experienced guilt as it meant that others hadn’t been so lucky, and that not all their friends and family had made it. I experienced such anger. How could someone do that?!? For whatever reason. And a parent too. Just how?
Then I read over and over again. “What kind of a world are we raising our kids in?” and it got me thinking.
Our 2016 world does seem pretty horrific at the moment. When I think back to my world of 1996 when I arrived in Nice. You were barely checked when catching a flight. You rarely saw armed police in the UK. Terrorism wasn’t massively on anyone’s radar, in France or in the UK.
But now, today, it’s a constant threat. Or if not a threat then definitely a constant presence.
This is the world we are raising our kids in.
And I started thinking about this. How much worse is this world than the one I was raised in, the one my parents were raised in and the one my grandparents were raised in.
All four of my grandparents were born in the First World War (or as it was known then “The Great War” or “The war to end all wars”). They came into a world of uncertainty and fear, at the end of which over 17 million people had died, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
A generation later my grandparents started their own families, bringing three sons into another war-torn world. This time during the Second World War. One of my grandfathers was a pacifist, but even he felt that he had no option but to fight the evil that was going on in the world at that time. Can you imagine my grandmothers bringing babies into a world where they were essentially single mums? Where people were dying everyday, either fighting the war or through being bombed in their homes? Where there was no certainty at all that good would win? As a mum I cannot for a second begin to imagine what that must have been like. We were the lucky ones. All of my grandparents survived the war and went on to have more children in the post-war years. But over 60 million people were killed in those 6 years of conflict.
The world did get a bit better and a bit safer then. But I remember growing up and being forbidden from going into London in the run-up to Christmas due to the risk of IRA bombs in shopping centres.
When I moved to Nice the fear was of bombs from Corsican Nationals.
When I moved to Spain (as part of the same Erasmus scheme that saw me studying in Nice) the fear was of ETA bombs.
Then as time moved on we stopped fearing our closest neighbours, and the risk came from further afield. We had wars in the Gulf and in Iraq. We felt relatively safe until terrorists from greater distances around the world started attacking us in our homes, in our jobs, on our way to work.
So what kind of a world are we raising our kids in?
From what I can tell the same kind that my grandparents, parents and I were raised in.
A world where there is evil, where there is death but where there is also good looking to overcome the evil.
So here is what I’m choosing to take away from all of this:
- You have one life. It is short and fragile. Live it the very best way you can, because once it’s over it’s gone.
- Your time could be up tomorrow. Through illness, accident or terrorist attack. But you might grow old and die in your bed aged 90. Life is dangerous, but that is not a reason to not live it to the full. Would you rather die happy young or die old having never done anything with your life and never taken any risks?
- I will continue to take calculated risks, as my grandparents’ generation used to say “if a bomb’s got your name on it, there’s not much you can do”.
- I will teach my children the good that is in the world. I will teach them that evil exists but that it is a minority, and if we all strive to be good, to teach our children to be good, then maybe we can overcome at least some of the evil. Imagine if we all smiled at each other in the street, said hello, and assumed the best instead of the worst? I want to believe that generally most people are good, so it is up to all of us to bring out their good.
I am hugging my family a little bit tighter today. In the same way I do after each attack, each death, each sad piece of news. I am grateful each time that it wasn’t me, that it wasn’t us and I keep those in my thoughts who were not so lucky.
I have switched off comments on this blog post because, despite wanting to believe the best in everyone, there are some nasty trolls out there, and I can’t be doing with them on something this sensitive.
Much love to you and yours and here’s to us coming together to overrun the world with love and good.