It’s been a very topsy-turvy month. I am aware that I keep using the word topsy-turvy, but that word is woefully inadequate. It doesn’t really explain how this month started on such a high, how I was feeling extremely lucky; how it felt that everything was going to plan. It doesn’t explain how in the blink of an eye those joyous emotions came crashing down. How I was left reeling; how life suddenly felt very wrong. How it felt that life as I knew it had ceased to exist. No, topsy-turvy doesn’t quite convey that. Yet I continue to use the word, and I think that it’s because I like the innocence of the word. It somehow comforts me. The only other alternative would be to swear and that isn’t really my style, well not in a blog post.
This month served to remind that life is very much made up of juxtapositions, namely light and dark; laughter and sadness. With everyday bringing news of terrorist attacks, we are constantly bombarded with images that remind us of the fragility of life, the uncertainty of it all. All the time I find myself worrying. Are my children getting the childhood they deserve? Or is this world killing their childhood: killing their innocence? As adults we hide the bad news from them; we cry behind closed doors. However, there is only so much we can shield them from; real life is happening and sometimes it is scary, and sometimes it is heartbreaking.
Yesterday we headed to the park. At the entrance to the park; tied to railings were a mountain of toys, floral bouquets and scribbled messages. Youngest, thought that they had been left there for children to play with. She wasn’t happy when I explained that the Paw Patrol toy wasn’t for her. This scene of childhood innocence was a memorial to the toddler who was run over whilst on holiday with his parents. It felt right that the teddies were there, an apt tribute to the loss of a young one. However, it also served as a brutal reminder that innocence can be destroyed in a blink of an eye. On the other side of the railings children played in death’s shadow, unaware of the significance of the bears. I found myself struggling to explain to the children. However, I felt that I had to explain; that I had to be honest. As a child, I am sure that I wasn’t aware of death and violence like my two are. There were no terrorist attacks. Death didn’t come to our doorstep. I was lucky. Part of the reason for moving to Jersey was so that our children could be brought up in a safer, more innocent environment. Before Jersey, we were living in an area that was very divided. Against the backdrop of the beautiful Yorkshire moors was a toxic society, divided by culture and religion. We worried for our girls, everyday local newspapers bringing stories of child grooming gangs. Girls that had been abused and passed around groups like rag dolls. Girls treated like cheap objects. Girls that were someone’s daughter. We fled to Jersey when we were offered the opportunity. Jersey has become our safe haven. However, I have to come to the realisation that nowhere is ever completely safe. That even on Jersey bad things can happen. Death can still visit our little island.
A part of me wants to bring the girls up to revel in the innocence of Jersey, to block the rest of the world out, but a part of me wants to prepare them for the real world. I encourage them to play outside, to explore the beaches and to fish for mermaids. However, if they ask me, then I tell them the truth. I won’t lie to them. Although, I will also continue to shelter them from the harshest reality. I will tell them the truth in a way that is gentle and still protects them. I do believe that children need to know so that they can learn about peace, tolerance and courage. Our children are our hope: they can offer us light during darkness.
This week I explained to Oldest that I was going to have to leave the island next week, and that Granny would be looking after her. When she asked why, I explained that I was going back for a funeral. Inevitably came the onslaught of questions that only a 7 year-old can come up with. Veering from the insightful one second to the ludicrous the next:
- “Why did she die?”
- “Did it hurt when she died?”
- “Will Granny play with my hair doll with me?”
- “What is a funeral?”
- “What do you do at a funeral?”
- “Will there be balloons?”
- “Will you be sad?”
I tried to explain that a funeral is a way of saying goodbye to my friend; that it is a way of celebrating her life. I tried to paint it as a positive event. However, Oldest’s questions reassured me that even when faced with the harsh reality of life, a child can still be innocent. Her final question was the hardest of all –
“You don’t need to be sad Mummy because your friend will have gone to heaven. Do you know what heaven is like?”
I struggled with how to answer before Oldest continued
“Heaven is like the most amazing hotel EVER. It has a swimming pool; people laughing, people drinking milkshakes and people eating lots of ice-cream. Heaven is a hotel”
There and then I realised that Oldest, my 7 year-old, is one of the wisest people I know. I like the idea of heaven being a very nice hotel.
“It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine” Eeyore – Winnie the Pooh