Ever find yourself worrying about the future for our children?
We woke up on Sunday 4th June to learn of more heart-wrenching news of more deaths from another attack. And right now it feels relentless, doesn’t it? I’m reading posts from friends who have echoed my own words a couple of weeks ago: “It all feels very close to home”.
And also reading things like this:
“I’m worried about how dangerous the World is for my kids”.
The sheer volume of news and the dramatic nature of the way it evolves almost in real time, is giving us an exaggerated sense of danger. And that’s not good news for our kids, because kids pick up on things lightning fast.
My ten-year old, Freddie, has said he gets a bit worried about visiting London or Manchester and has made nervous jokes about something happening to me when I’m in either city.
But, I think it’s extremely important for us to remember that the world our kids are growing up in (in the West, that is) is no more scary than the world we grew up in, our parents or theirs before them.
During World War 1, just under 9 million men served in the British army and just under 1 million of them were killed or died from wounds, disease or injury. Can you imagine your son going off to fight in a war where he had a 1 in 9 chance of dying?
Rewinding right back to the Middle Ages, the average life span was 31 years.
Except for people like me, witches with ginger hair, for whom life expectancy was approx 18 years. 😉
There was the cold war, the IRA and Bird’s Angel Delight when I was growing up.
My mum was sent to the Isle of Man as a girl with her sister during World War 2. The street she grew up on was heavily bombed: Can you imagine shipping your kids off to stay long term with a family across a sea, because your home had a high probability of being bombed?
It’s not something we have to consider in the West. Of course, our kids would be facing a lot worse if we lived in Syria or Libya right now.
I could go on…
The difference is that now, we don’t just read frightening news in next day’s papers about humans committing appalling acts on other humans, we hear an explosion of INSTANT frightening news, which inevitably leads to grossly exaggerated and often false news. Which in turn, promotes an exaggerated sense of drama and fear.
The other week, my eldest son and his friends were snap chatting each other about a girl in one of their schools who was killed in the Manchester attack. I discovered a few days later that this was inaccurate….the girl referred to went to a school over 20 miles away. They didn’t know her. But the kids were too hooked on the drama to concern themselves with the truth. I don’t cite this to lessen the gravity of the news for that girl and those who loved her, but to illustrate how easy it is for our children to get a grossly distorted view of bad things happening.
When Fred was on a school trip a few weeks ago, he cracked his head. He was absolutely fine but as it goes with head wounds, there was a fair amount of blood. Reports of the blood spattering onto the floor led to one of his highly imaginative classmates creating a story from this that he was dead!
We had to issue a public statement to state that reports of Fred’s demise after falling over in the dorm whilst trying to catch a ball were grossly exaggerated. 😉
There’s a sense of drama that even most adults (me included!) get caught up in ….just look at Facebook as one example: It now has the functionality after a suspected terror attack to allow those in the general area to “mark themselves safe” or “offer help”. No wonder we focus on the drama. Everybody knows somebody who could have been there!
This functionality on Facebook is a good thing in some ways, but let’s face it, we could be marking ourselves safe every day:
Picture this: “A car crashed in Cheshire today. I live in Cheshire – I better mark myself safe. Thank goodness it wasn’t me in that car!
In fact, my chances of dying in a car crash are one in 19,000, as opposed to a one in 2,000,000 chance of dying in a terrorist attack. We should be more scared of our kids crossing the road or even going out into the garden, as they are more likely to die getting stung by a bee (700 people do).
I know how easy it is to wonder:
“What if that man over there is a suicide bomber?”
“What if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
On Saturday night, as I was queuing to get into the Ethiad Stadium in Manchester to see Robbie Williams in concert, with a sniffer dog passing up and down and armed police all around, the woman behind me joked darkly to her friends:
“Let’s go to the toilets in twos….if we die, at least it won’t be alone!”
I know how easy it is to feel scared for our kids’ future, but right now my big fear for our kids is that they will get drawn in by the fear-mongering that squashes free thinking, assessed risk taking and contribution. I want my boys to live full out, purposefully and as citizens of the world, curious about the world and its diversity.
Fear is essential when we actually need it: The fear response produces adrenaline in the moment when we DO have to use our limbs to MOVE – fight or flight. And I think it’s useful for us to learn awareness and risk mitigation against violent attacks. I’m going on an “Urban Survival” weekend tomorrow, so I’ll be able to give you some tips on all this as well as how to resist interrogation!
I wouldn’t have missed Robbie Williams’ concert on Saturday night for the World, even though it came just a week after another concert venue in Manchester was attacked by a suicide bomber. More importantly, I wouldn’t want my sons to miss out on experiences like this out of fear of that minuscule probability (because it still IS a minuscule probability).
We need to remind ourselves to pause before we react to the fear-mongering. Because the next generation will pick up on our fear.
Let’s encourage our kids to keep on living full out, without fear. And let’s do that by teaching them to focus on positive things that they have control over and that WILL change the world: Things like looking after their health, random acts of kindness, standing up for what they believe in and grabbing opportunities.
Most of all, let’s teach them to grab life by the short and curlies and live the heck out of it. After all, they are the ones who have to take the reigns on this mad, bad old World. We do that by walking the talk ourselves: Grab life by the short and curlies, do something kind, be courageous and stand up for something important.
At the concert last Saturday, Robbie made a moving tribute to the late George Michael, covering his 1990 hit single “Freedom”. Those who are as old as me may remember the Katherine Hammett designer white T shirts that Wham! used to wear, with logos in thick black letters emblazoned on them. You might remember one of those phrases; it was splayed all over the big screen as Robbie sang:
And that is what you should do whenever you find yourself worrying about the future of the world!