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The Blur Between Borrowed and Real

"It's not my fear to own," I thought to myself.

It felt like an act of defiance to march out of the house and pile into the car. While other parents were huddled in their homes, carefully guarding their words from small children, I was out and about. Alexis and I were on a mission to eat dinner together and go shopping, even as other parents and their children discussed bullets flying through the neighborhoods of their city that was completely shut down.

It wasn't my fear to own. I could borrow it, but I wouldn't keep it.


As Alexis and I walked into the crowded Eat 'n Park, my eyes were drawn to the mass of people at the front of the restaurant. The flat screen TV that hung on the wall was surrounded by eyes and attentive faces. Fear intermixed with curiosity flowed between the group as they watched the news coverage.

They stood transfixed as they awaited an outcome. If I had stayed there long enough, I could have been drawn into the scene, but there were little eyes by my side. I didn't want her to see. I didn't want her to borrow that fear.


As Alexis and I chatted and ate, I occasionally glanced at my phone, eager for news. "Finish it," I thought to myself. It seemed like the end was just moments away, but then it wasn't. And then it was. And then it wasn't.

It was madness, neatly summed up in 140 characters over and over again. Between news organizations and the people I call my friends, there was no escaping the manhunt. Every once in a while fear would leak across the screen as friends in Boston would relay something that had happened just outside their door. That fear was mixed with the fear of others who were hundreds of miles away. They were spectators borrowing the fear of another city.

That sort of stuff is contagious. I shut off my phone so that I wouldn't catch it.


Alexis and I walked into the mall. It felt like another act of defiance. I selected that mall because it has Alexis' favorite store, but I knew it was recently evacuated after a bomb threat. "Screw fear," I thought to myself.

I am so very tired of threats left on notes for no reason other than so that some loser can stand around and watch the reactions.

Alexis and I marched into her favorite store and I stood back and waited as she spun in circles searching for the perfect outfit. She grabbed a bright pink skirt and then a shirt and another shirt and before I knew it, she was standing in a fitting room making sure it all worked.

As she tried on one thing and then another, I returned to my phone. I furiously refreshed the updates again and again. And then I saw it. The end.

Fear had been captured.

"Mom, the yellow pants fit!" Alexis joyfully reported just as I started to go down the rabbit hole filled with news and speculation. Her cheerful declaration ripped me from that rabbit hole and I rejoined her in my version of reality. My reality was hundreds of miles from the source of the fear.

It was borrowed fear, but it was still too close.


Later, Alexis skirted around the issue. She, like all kids, notices everything. She is smart enough to pretend she doesn't when she senses that it's better to leave things alone.

I skirted back. The story is too complicated and too filled with evil for me to find a good way to explain it all to her. She is carefully balanced atop that mountain where children believe the best about everyone. I'm not quite read to push her off that mountain. We talk about it sometimes, but mostly I let her keep viewing the world through rose-colored glasses.

Just as we pulled into our driveway, I heard it.

The bang.

The sound is a familiar one as we live in an almost rural area. There is a farm nearby and the landowner clearly owns several guns. Whether he is hunting or what, I don't know. I just know that from time to time, shots ring out in our neighborhood.

It doesn't matter how much I know the sound is meaningless, it still startles me.

"Momma, was that fireworks?" Alexis asked as she tried to adjust her rose-colored glasses.

"I don't think so, Alexis," I told her. I don't lie to her. I just sometimes hold out on the full story.

Alexis paused for a moment and then began to cry. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"I think that was a gun. I think a farmer just killed an animal," she said through tears.


The line between borrowed fear and real fear is starting to blur. I wish I knew how to make it stop.


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Reader Comments (8)

Yes. Yes to all of this.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMiolly

I know. I've discovered that I have to talk to my kids about this stuff as it happens, before they hear something at school. I keep it to as much as a minimum as possible, but I hate that they can't escape it, any more than the rest of us. You captured how that feels very well. The good thing about having young children is that they live in the moment, so I often find that I can't think about whatever tragedy is going on, and they are a tangible relief from the horrors of the world. Yeah for yellow pants!

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer I

I was talking with Ben on Friday night about it all since he came down as I watching the news after they had captured him. I talked to him about it all asking what he had heard and what he remembered. I tried to shelter him from it all week but like Alexis he listens to everything and knows when it is best to pretend he doesn't know. However on Friday I realized we needed to talk to him about it. However, I chose to discuss the positives. I chose to discuss the people who had helped-doctors, nurses, EMT, bystanders, police and military. I chose to discuss the ways the world is good. I said that bad things happen but we choose how to respond. His response was those people who ran to help were better than Batman and Superman. I thought about what he said and he is right. Our everyday superheroes are better than the cartoons. I also grapple with how to discuss tragedies with him, but I should give him credit. I hope he always sees the positives in the world and keeps giving back the way he has.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Well said.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKyFireWife

There has been too much news to shield from small eyes lately. I give the most basic explanations that satisfy my kids. They don't need to know much. I hadn't mentioned Boston to them but we were having dinner in a small restaurant and the TV on the wall was tuned to CNN. They were showing photos that were too graphic and scary for small girls. On a loop. Never ending. So I made them sit together on the other side of the booth so they wouldn't see. My oldest asked why. I told her a bad person hurt people in another city and I didn't want her watching the photos. My youngest asked if he would go to jail. I said yes (hoping that was true). They didn't need to know more. I dread the day when I can't shield their eyes so easily.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

i'm so glad alexis has you.
i can't even imagine being a parent in this day of constant news.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

I have an 8-year-old boy. He knows that an 8-year-old boy was killed watching his parent run a marathon. I am running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 5. He just wanted to know that the "bad guy" was caught. It's borrowed fear, for sure, but it was SO close. I'm not taking the kids to watch me cross the finish. BUT. I am still going to cross that finish line myself. It's a balance - give and take. It's frustrating for them when so many, many pundits continue to ask why when no one in their right mind will ever be able to give a satisfactory answer. Blessings to Boston.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Mommy

It's so hard - for me, to know I have to send mine out there into the world every day and trust others to take care of her. Could something happen in my own home just as easily as the mall, or her school? Sure, but I feel like I can do a better job than everybody else. As long as she's with me, and we stay holed up on the house, the bad guys can't get us. But obviously that's not logical, possible or rational. But man is it hard to watch the school bus leave every day and know that she's sitting in a school all day long, or go to the zoo or the mall or anywhere really. I love that you just keep it real.

April 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
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