“Shocking Crime: New York Nanny Kills Children Ages 6 and 2”
The day after this story broke there were comments on my Facebook thread. Pleas to give extra hugs to your children, your husband, anyone you love out of sheer gratitude for having them in your life. Appreciate all that you have in the wake of this tragedy. Hold your loved ones close. The old aphorism, “there but for the grace of God, go I” was implied.
I tried to make sense of how something like this could happen. It was reported that the nanny had worked for the family for a year and that they were close. Vacationing together in the Dominican Republic, the nanny introduced the family she was caring for in New York to her family of origin. There were pictures of the families together, seemingly happily united. I couldn’t understand. Surely only a psychotic break of enormous proportions could explain such a horrific act. Was it possible that this nanny could have slaughtered two innocent children and herself with no warning signs as a prelude to the crime? The excruciating, unrecoverable pain that mother and father had and would experience was unimaginable to me. It is surely a type of agony that could never be resolved. It was reported that when the mother discovered her children dead in the bathtub her screams could be heard throughout their high-rise building. It was a bone chilling description. Although these victims are complete strangers to me, I found myself wishing I could do something to ease their pain from three thousand miles away. I wanted to hold them, rock them, feed them, medicate them. But of course there is nothing.
I ran the background check on our babysitter I had forgone in lieu of my eye contact and instincts. Little good it would ultimately do to protect us from such abhorrent horror.
Incidentally, I had spent the morning crying on my couch. Struggling with some problems of my own I was depressed and not sure how I was going to move forward to rectify my own situation. I had signed onto Facebook as a diversion from my own pain. After reading all the posts and then any article I could find to make some sense out of what had happened in New York, I left to pick up my daughter from preschool.
When I entered the room she flew into my arms. Smiling. Round. Messy. Adorable. There was my baby at her best. I could smell her sweet head on my chest. Did I hug her twice as hard, grateful that a crazed nanny had not stabbed her to death in our bathtub? No. Did I feel a more expansive love and appreciation for her than when I had dropped her off that morning, desperately thankful that a crazed nanny had not stabbed her to death in our bathtub? No.
I don’t understand why in our culture we are socialized to use other’s misfortune as a reminder of our good fortune. To a certain extent it makes some logical sense and I do try to be mindful and grateful for the gifts I have been given. But hearing about a catastrophic tragedy befalling another person doesn’t make me feel more fortunate in my own life. It just makes me feel deeply, painfully sad for what they have lost. I hate the idea that we should somehow boost ourselves up on the shoulders of the less fortunate enabling ourselves to feel happier, all under the guise of an altruistic sense of gratitude.
And I believe it all stems from the misguided American notion that we are expected to exist on a never-ending continuum of happiness in the first place. Where does this crazy expectation we all work so hard to uphold come from? When I greet people on a daily basis I inquire as to how they are. I rarely hear that they are sad or mad or feeling really down. Everyone is always, “good, ” or even “great.” And I’m just as guilty. Did I walk into the preschool today and announce that I had just been crying on my couch? Of course not. It’s not socially acceptable, but it’s the truth. I can’t be alone.
Do I love my children? Yes. Do I love every single moment I spend with them? No. Do I love my husband? Yes. Do I love every single moment I spend with him? No. Do I love myself? Some days. Do I love every single moment I spend with myself? Absolutely not.
Life is hard. Raising children is REALLY hard. As much thought and energy as I have put into parenting, there are days when I honestly wonder if I am doing anything right.
Enjoy every single moment with your children because you can’t get them back. Be grateful and always happy for what you have because there is always someone suffering more than you are. Whatever you do, don’t blink because if you do it might all be gone. It is simply too much pressure for me to exist under on a daily basis.
The constant comparison where “larger problems” take precedence over “smaller problems,” forcing the owner of the smaller problem to give up his or her right to experience pain out of guilt in lieu of the owner of the larger problem’s greater right to experience pain is ridiculous.
Some days I feel deeply sad for reasons that are very important to me. And rather than boosting myself up and out of my experience on someone else’s deemed greater misfortune, I would rather acknowledge their pain as well as my own.
When an unthinkable tragedy occurs as it has in New York, it strikes all of us because it aims at the heart of our survival instinct. It is a tragedy that could create the kind of pain that actually threatens survival. The kind of pain that nightmares are made of, nightmares you can’t wake up from. Every person ultimately fears that in some single moment that they let their guard down, that kind of life altering tragedy will strike. The worst you never even dared to imagine will happen. And it could. It might. There are no guarantees no matter how grateful you are. And in life there will always be pain, in all extremes and all variations. Everyone feels pain. Everyone will try to survive.
And if the parents or family or friends of those two children ever come across this article, my heart breaks for you. You have my deepest most heartfelt condolences.