It’s hard to watch the news when you have kids. When Ava was first born, I made a habit of avoiding the television altogether because between post-partum depression, sleep deprivation and a love for my child so big that my heart almost burst, even “America’s Funniest Home Videos” had me reaching for tissues (I have a special place in my heart for old people falling).
During my media blackout, there were days when my husband Ray would come into the kitchen and wait for me to look up from the dishes. He wouldn’t say anything; he’d just stand there soberly until he caught my eye. I’ve come to know that look well – it’s a sickening combination of heartbreak and anger over what someone had done to a child. It happens when he can’t bear the burden of knowing something so terrible that it couldn’t have been imagined, let alone actually happen. But it does. And it happens a lot.
“Can I tell you something?” he asked.
I listened as he told me that a man had put his baby in a microwave and turned it on.
“I didn’t need to know that,” I said, choking on tears.
“I didn’t either.”
Such events would horrify anyone, but having a child makes them more poignant, and perhaps even harder to understand. “Why would someone do that?” I find myself saying to the TV time and time again, as it broadcasts stories about children being abused, kidnapped and murdered by their own parents. It’s a stupid, pointless question.
The latest story is about Josh Powell, the man in Tacoma, WA, who blew up his house, with him and his two boys, 5 and 7, inside. A day later, we learn that he hit his children with a hatchet before the house exploded. As the news anchors and experts try to piece together the puzzle to explain why Powell did this, I find myself less and less interested in the answer.
I’m tired of the “reasons.” I’m tired of hearing that some parents are too tired, overworked, emotionally unstable, poor, uneducated, etc. to properly love and care for their children. When I had Ava and first discovered how hard parenting could be, I needed to believe that most parents, like me, were doing the “best they could” – good or bad. But six years later, I know better. I’ve seen parents scream at, bully, humiliate, and hit their children. I’ve seen kids left in parked cars and lost in grocery stores because their parents were “too busy to bother.”
So yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry that people like Powell exist. And I’m angry that thoughts of him invade my home and my heart, and most importantly, that people like him influence the world in which my child will grow up.
Ava is the single most precious thing to me in the world. If she gets a hangnail, I feel as if I lose a year off my life; when she skins her knee, I lose 5. I don’t understand how people can look in their children’s eyes and willingly harm them, but if I think about it too long, I fear I may go mad. The most frustrating things in life are the things we can’t make sense of. They’re also the most frightening.