Adventures in Parenting: Why Bad Things Happen
Kids are full of questions, and I am full of answers
Why is the sky blue? Why do birds sing?
The sky is blue because molecules of nitrogen and oxygen in the air scatter and refract to create blue light and hence a blue sky.
Birds sing as a means to communicate. They are looking for a mate or defending their property.
But my kids don’t ask me questions that simple.
Who? What? Where? Why? And How?
My children are curious about how things work. They ask “How are buildings made? Where does steel come from? What makes a car or airplane go?” My kids are long passed the birds and the bees. They want to know about electrical engineering and particle acceleration. I have answers for most things, even told them where babies come from, and yet they still want to know more.
Recently, my oldest asked me, “Why don’t we ever read books where bad things happen? Or see sad movies?” I don’t know. I thought “How to Train Your Dragon” had some sad parts.
Why are mommies and daddies mean?
Sometimes I'm a “bad” mommy. Mean isn’t “sad” they explained. I say a lot of “No,” “Don’t do that,” and “Do as I say.”
I told my kids that they have to listen to us, their parents, so that in case of an emergency they’ll be trained to follow urgent directions. “Stop” might save a child from dashing into a busy street. “No” might save a kid from eating poison. “Run” or “Hide” might save you from fire, genocide, earthquake or tsunami.
Those words, as you can imagine, lead them to more questions. We found reputable news sources online and watched a few videos of the situation in Japan. For a long time they didn’t have any questions except, “Is that real?” But I knew a final important question was looming.
Why do bad things happen?
I grew up going to church. I still go. I love religion. Not just my religion, but I like lots of other people’s religions, too. Everyone turns to God, or the lack thereof, to answer why bad things happen. Is it sin, justice, weakness, karma, or penance? Is the answer in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or any other sacred text?
Did anyone ever think to ask a mom, “Why do bad things happen?”
Bad is relative. If you watched enough "Twilight Zone" (the way I did growing up), you’d know that good is relative. Does anything good ever come to the person who gets three wishes? Wins the lottery? When asked why bad things happen, we must first change our perception of bad and good.
Bad is better than worse. The first time I got a speeding ticket, I was devastated. I cried. I was shocked, but I was also trained by my parents to look on the bright side. It took me a few days, but what if getting a speeding ticket prevented me from being in an accident. What if it was the ticket that saved my life?
I told my kids that earthquakes and floods and tornadoes are hiccups on the planet. Without each little disaster, they’re might be a bigger disaster that could hurt and kill far more people.
What if there are some questions that don’t have answers? There are some things that science and religion can’t fully explain. What if our puny human brains just can comprehend the answers?
Good things are equally perplexing. But no one sat around on Saturday wondering why the day was so beautiful. And what did we do to deserve it. Our planet is a strange place filled with devastation and beauty. Snow and sunshine.
The biggest task of parenthood is answering life’s question when we don’t quite know the answers. The biggest task of childhood is to care enough to keep asking.