Moments after Salman Abedi became a suicide bomber, taking with him the lives of twenty-two others and wounding a further sixty-four, our nation began to learn a new lesson, perhaps in the same way that America did after 9/11. Here though there was a painful revision of that lesson – not only could we be hit at home, but so too could our children, briefly out of reach of their parents and on the occasion of a joy-filled pop concert watching a heroine not much older than themselves. Perhaps there is a secondary lesson to be learnt as well though, and particularly so at this time. It is a lesson to do with trust and independence.
Right now, many of us as parents - me included - will have an instinctive desire to keep our children at close quarters – to keep them constantly in our sight. But does doing so make them any safer in the long run? Surely now is the time for investing trust in them, loosening those ties and dealing with that perfectly understandable fear in us of doing so. If we want our children to grow up to be able to look after themselves – call it becoming streetwise - then we have to give them periods of independence as children so they learn to cope without us for longer and longer. It’s just like we did when they were younger and we left them at school or with childminders. As teens we have to start letting them manage on their own, because in a precious few years they’ll be having to make their own way in life – and wanting to too.
It has been reported that the indoctrination of suicide bombers includes the promise of a most glorious afterlife, having first crossed over by striking a blow for whatever cause it is that they follow. Perhaps even here there is an acknowledgement of the value of the human soul if the giving up of it will bring such a return. I cannot say what happens when we die any more than anyone else can – but surely it is by being constructive that we enrich our lives and souls, rather than by destroying them, unfulfilled.
Fear and the terrifying imaginings that we are capable of as adults is what holds us back. But instead of taking control and locking our children away we need to give them advice and ask them to make sensible choices - about what they eat, drink, smoke and do – and about the situations that they put themselves in. Even then they probably have to make their own mistakes in order to learn from them, because people of any age rarely believe others unless they have experienced something first hand. If we want our children to grow up as free and capable spirits we cannot imprison them now just to allay our own fears. What I want for my children is that they live every day in the real world, working to discover what they can achieve and making the most of the talents and abilities they have been gifted.