It’s no secret that I am a fan of country music.
In fact, I am such a fan that this past year Catherine and I decided that it was time for our 10 and 7 year old to go to their first concert and we took them to see the Zac Brown Band.
The concert was such a memorable one for us as we saw our girls down a bottle of soda each (a treat in our household) and beam with excitement to see the man who sings all the songs we listen to in our house. Watching them that night dance with each other and sing ‘Toes,’ ‘Homegrown’ and ‘Chicken Fried’ was a memory I will always have. When they fell asleep in our car on the way home, I was reminded about the sweet bliss of childhood, and how perfect those years are and can be.
The day after the concert, as the girls were reliving the experience with their younger sister, they shared how great the night was, and that she had to ‘go to as many concerts as you can!’
Monday, I woke, as I suspect you did as well, to the evils of the world that we all live in. My mind went to the victims, and then I thought of my kids.
As a human, I wanted to turn on the news and try to make sense of this horror. However, as a parent, I wanted this Monday to be just like every other Monday. I wanted the stress of getting out the door on time and not the stress of comprehending a world that deals so often with hate and evil. As a parent, I wondered if I should share it with them and ruin the bliss of a country music concert.
In our house, we love Jason Aldean. As you can suspect, we love a good dirt road, and when we hit one in our car, ‘The Dirt Road Anthem’ comes on. So, the thought that went through my mind as I thought of this massacre was, ‘Why ruin concerts? Places of joy and fun?’ More importantly, why spoil the bliss of childhood for so many?
When I worked at the American Camp Association, I had the very unique and moving experience of going to the home of a family who had lost a child in the Newtown massacre. The boy, at 5 (and also my eldest daughter’s age at the time), had been in love with his summer camp experience, and the family wanted to share his story.
As we sat and talked, I was struck by a theme that was ever-present in his parents’ words, ‘Why would someone ruin this most perfect time of life?’ The children killed lost a chance at childhood. Those that lived through it were forced to grow up so quickly as they learned, what we all do in time, that the world is filled with evil and hate. In that realization, the wonder and bliss of childhood are no more. I think they wanted to talk with us because camp was so counter to this evil. It was the exact opposite.
Growing up and achieving understanding is important. It is how we determine our place and the impact we can have on the world. As I grew into manhood, and the realities of our world became present with events like Columbine, 9/11 and Newtown, I began to sense that my greatest impact can be in making sure all kids are still having worry-free childhood experiences in the summer.
We ended up making the decision to not turn on the news Monday morning. We shared a bit of information with our eldest daughter, but did not go into the specifics of the horror, or the concert, or the lives lost. We said our prayers for those whose lives had been impacted and for the world we live in, and then we hustled out the door to make the morning school bell.
I do not know if this is the right move as a parent, to try and protect them and their childhood years. But in the moment, it is the one we made.
Ultimately, I think I like country music because it is worry free. It is sunny and light and well, its ‘homegrown’ and ‘chicken fried.’
So, when the girls got home that night, we did as we often do, and we turned on our old record player and put on some Randy Travis. And as we danced around the kitchen to ‘Forever and Ever, Amen,’ I held each of them a bit tighter, knowing that one day they will grow up and face the realities of Mondays like this. (As you face this week as parents, I can tell you, this song does help.)
At Wilderness Adventures, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these horrors and with all the children who have had to grow up too soon.