I was woken up at 3.15am by pinging Facebook requests to mark myself safe after ‘The Attack in London’ and vibrating messages asking if I was alive and well.
The recent spate of attacks, from the tragedy of Westminster and the horror of Manchester to the devastation of the Ramadan attacks in Baghdad were of little consequence to me. Usually, I furtively check updates as the news unfolds, shielding the boys from a part of world that I wanted to protect them from, but ignorance isn’t always bliss.
If you follow our IG @littlelondoners you would have seen that we had been in Borough Market, just hours before the attack we had lunch at Rabot 1745, for this months food edit, we wandered the stalls, talking with stakeholders and taking advantage of the samples on offer. Only for somewhere that isn’t just a part of London, but my London. The London that I have created for my boys, that I promote at every opportunity, for my bubble to be burst a few hours later by a senseless and heinous act. As I read theaccount of what had happened, I realised that I couldn’t protect the boys forever and in these uncertain times, the best thing I can do as their parent is to prepare them for the uncomfortable truth, that it could have been us.
As I worries over how I was going to break the news to my sensitive and innocent boys, who lives in a world where the worst thing imaginable was to not be invited to a birthday party. I was reminded of the well-known Fred Rogers’ excerpt:
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.
With that in mind, I sat with them both in the morning and we looked at the photos I had taken of them the day before. I asked them what they had liked, what they had enjoyed about their day and then I gently broke the news. They are only 4 and 2, so avoiding too many details I explained that a very unhappy person had hurt a lot of people where we had been that day, some of them had died (they are familiar with this concept after my mother lost her battle with cancer last summer) but most of them where in hospital getting better. We talked about the different type of people that help us; police officers, paramedics and firefighters. Although initially concerned, I was able to reassure them that if anything bad happened there would always be somebody around to help, they should always look for somebody they recognise as being a ‘helper’.
It was not as difficult a conversation as I had anticipated, I know that I will probably and unfortunately need to have similar and more detailed conversations in the years to come, but I am grateful that I could shift the focus from the bad to the good. To persevere their innocence and the magic of London as seen through a child’s eyes, I would not have been able to do so without our ‘helpers’, the emergency services responders, the volunteers opening their homes to those displaced by the attack, without them I wouldn’t be able to have had a positive and reassuring conversation with them, for that I am glad.