There are a lot of things I can talk about to my 14-year-old.
I can talk to him about football (which I know very little), and rugby (which I know even less). But I try because he loves these sports and plays for his high school teams.
I can talk to him about girls to which he absolutely had no interest until six months ago. Its scares me that sooner or later, some girl is going to break his heart for the first time and I’ll have to stop myself from wanting to stab her with a spoon.
I can talk to him about the Olympics, scream at the tv, and cheer with him when the athletes do something completely bananas.
I can even talk to him about sex, from safe sex to abstinence. I talk to him about autonomy over his body, while respecting other people’s rights too, of a girl’s right to say no and change her mind.
I can talk to him about how Hamilton (the musical) is probably the most awesome musical of all time. We sing along to the songs every time I drive him to school or to sports. Him in his bass voice made stronger with his choir practice, and me hopelessly out of tune, and embarrassingly unashamed.
I can talk to my son about everything, and anything. Of things that are important, and things that are not. Of things that matter to him to which I have very little understanding and insight (that video game and how he couldn’t reach a level, I have no clue).
But I don’t know how to talk to my son about kids killing kids, about school shootings, about our ability to kill each other for no reason, our seemingly endless capacity for hate. This stuff I cannot explain to him. I can try to rationalize to him, talk to him about gun control and gun ownership rights, about mental health issues, of pressures kids face now that we didn’t face while growing up. I can try to reassure him that people are still good and kind, that the world is still safe, that he can go off anywhere secure in the knowledge that its ok to live and enjoy life without fear. But I don’t know how because part of me would be lying, part of me fails to understand, and part of me is confused.
How can we, as a society, have failed our children that they hurt and kill children like them? How can we let this happen, over and over, and over again? How can I even begin to respond to his questions, to talk to him about the children who like him said goodbye to their parents just this morning, and went to school, but unlike him, they will never go home to their parents? It breaks my heart that when its absolutely important I don’t know how to talk to my son.