Dad’s Dairy

We carefully create worlds for our children devoid of violence

It is doubly disturbing, somehow, to be in the presence of children when you hear of great darkness.

My son had sought refuge from a bad dream during the night and was silently asleep beside me one dreary morning last week. As he slumbered peacefully, his face utterly placid, almost angelic, I awoke wearily to greet a dark midwinter morning. As I idly checked the news on my phone, with disbelief, I read of the shocking news of the death of Tom OíGorman, an acquaintance and contributor to this paper. He had been killed in his own childhood home, just across the city, the night before.

Although not someone I knew especially well, the news was deeply disturbing nonetheless. I could only imagine the utter dismay and horror of his family, friends and colleagues. I happened to have spoken to Tom just before Christmas. Suddenly, that kind and friendly voice, I learned, was now forever silenced, in a manner too brutal for words.

Tom was a prolific Facebook user and often sent kind wishes on some major event in the lives of our children ñ he was famous for the joy he took in children. It was appropriate then that so many babies and small children were in attendance at a vigil held in his memory later in the week.

As parents, we carefully create worlds for our children, as devoid of violence, evil and tragedy as we can manage. Our own children are so young yet that ëbaddiesí, if they exist at all, are mere cartoonish, roguish characters. They trust all adults, thinking them kind, as kindness ñ thankfully ñ is all they have ever experienced. Disorder, serious illness and violence are as yet unknown to them.

Yet too soon, these innocent and carefully crafted childhood universes, as free as possible of suffering, must be slowly and gently sundered, as you gradually and reluctantly introduce the young souls in your care to the saddening reality that there is more than just good in this world. Too soon, perhaps, some over-anxious parents tell their children about bad men and bad things. And yet, ultimately, it becomes our job to inform them of the dangers in the world, as children become older and more autonomous, so that they can protect themselves.

Few instances of darkness go by without provoking goodness. Like the scene where hundreds of people packed a candlelit church on a rainy Dublin night last week, gathered in prayer to offer solace and to show solidarity with devastated family and friends. Stories were told of a kind, courageous and inspirational person ñ someone who touched the lives of far more people than perhaps he ever knew.

Yet sadly, adults and children alike must learn and re-learn one of the hardest and most unwelcome lessons of life: that terrible things happen to good people and that, really, we donít know why.