Tragedies such as the massacre in Aurora, Colorado—and the even more recent shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin—spark national horror, disgust and fear in the heart of every mom in America. But as quickly as that first stab of fear hits, for us moms, it’s instantly followed by a sense of personal relief. “Thank God my kid wasn’t there.”
Tragedy can strike at any time, at any place under a variety of circumstances. And while the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Wisconsin both appear to be the result of a single deranged person, we must not live in fear. Doing so would undermine our children’s curiosity to learn and their ability to grow up to be productive and healthy adults.
A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I forced myself to buy a plane ticket with my then 8-month-old baby girl to attend my sister’s wedding. If I quit flying in fear of my plane being hijacked, I’d never fly again. Having been raised mostly in Spain, a country where terrorism was always a real possibility, I learned to continue going about life despite bombings, kidnappings and the murder of innocent people. Shortly after the bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004, I took a train into the same train station that was bombed, with my kids and their dad, on our way to the Madrid airport. We had no alternative but to face our fear and move forward.
I’m writing this while on vacation in Haiti, where people have lost family members to killings, earthquakes, hurricanes, accidents, and disease. And while they don’t embrace these horrors—who would—they have learned to accept them and to continue living fearlessly.
We live in an unpredictable and sometimes scary world. How do we keep protecting our children without sheltering them from reality? Growing up, I could always sense my elders’ fears that something could happen to me. They sheltered me to the extent that, on looking back, I feel I missed out on many of the experiences that help build character. Because of that, I give my young children more freedom than I ever had, despite the tragic stories that inundate the media
Maybe it’s the resilience of us Latinas that keeps us going in a world where danger is always present. We’ve seen our parents and grandparents risk their own lives to give us better opportunities. Many, such as my great uncle, fled totalitarian governments. Some risked imprisonment (my grandfather spent months in a concentration camp in Spain after the Spanish Civil War), deportation, and even torture and death in order to live, prosper and raise their children on American soil.
We are emerging from decades of racial discrimination and male dominance to claim our place—and exercise our growing influence—in modern society. So how can we allow our kids to live in fear? How can we live in fear? In Aurora, in Wisconsin or Haiti, in a Spanish subway or a New York City office building, we’ve simply come too far to cower now.