When a Parent’s Worst Nightmare Becomes News
I really despise being the bearer of bad news. There is no joy in shattering someone’s momentary innocence and reminding them of the random cruelty in the world, so I will just say something really horrific happened in New York City on Thursday involving a nanny and two children. You can choose to read the story, as reported by The New York Times, here. Or you can just move forward with your day and hope to steer clear of insurmountable tragedy. I wouldn’t blame you for choosing the latter.
But if we are to circle back to such tragedy, particularly this one involving the death of two children (allegedly) at the hands of their trusted nanny, it brings to the forefront all of the depth of parental fears. When we are new parents (and I speak generally here for both genders) we could barely fathom the idea of entrusting our children’s welfare to anyone else, let alone letting them out of our sight. But part of growing up (for both children and their parents) is letting go and trusting that the world will be generous towards our children and awful tragedies will pass us over. I am sure many who read the headlines this morning felt a combination of sickening dread and relief that such a misfortune didn’t land in their house and touch their family.
In the days to come, police investigators will look for motives, opinion pieces will blame everyone from working mothers to the conditions of low wage domestic workers, and concerned parents will “batten down the hatches” and hold their children a little closer and scrutinize that baby sitter hire a little more closely. But maybe it is not an absolute concerning prevention or blame. Is it enough to say bad things happen or, to paraphrase the late Spalding Gray, maybe it is just an invisible cloud of evil that circles the earth and lands at random in places like Aurora, Colorado, Oslo, or (in this case) the Upper West Side of Manhattan? How do we process such a horror, as parents, community members, and caretakers of children?