IN the aftermath of the devastating events in Paris it would be easy to stop smiling and impose a ban on happiness.
Heaven knows, there is little to be positive and cheerful about in the wake of such terror being visited upon mostly young people at leisure in a European capital. Not just any European capital, either, but the one closest to our shores and probably the most visited by Brits.
Close to home, yes, and, as we are now all too chillingly aware, quite likely to be merely the precursor.
So do we stay at home, lock our doors and change our lives to avoid all risk? Of course we don’t, we hold our heads up and get on with things as normally as possible.
Of course that is easier said than done. My son-in-law commutes into and across London where one assumes the risks are greatest, especially among crowds and especially in the run-up to Christmas. My daughter is fearful for him, but is no less fearful for her two little boys.
She shared her concern when we spoke on the phone at the weekend. “I feel almost guilty for having brought two children into this awful world,” she said. “I don’t know how I can protect them from so much evil.”
At first, I could offer disappointingly little to help her. One constructive response might have been, “Tell you what, we’ll all move to a remote island in the Pacific,” but there would be as much wisdom in that as in what a friend offered to me as her solution: that we should immediately close all our borders and the Channel Tunnel should never have been built because she always knew it would be a Bad Thing. No, no wisdom and even less logic.
I simply responded to my daughter with the one thing that popped into my head, which was along the lines of: “You can’t hope to protect the boys from everything, not least random acts of terrorism. You can only give them the tools to be sensible, thoughtful, kind citizens and help them grow the confidence that will give them a zest for life mixed with a strong sense of self-preservation. But to bring them up in a risk-free environment and being over-protective is the way to go crazy.”
Now that I’m a granny I think I’m entitled to administer the odd preachy bit of advice from time to time, and that one was certainly one of my more extensive and serious sermons.
But these are serious times, and I feel dreadfully sorry for young people growing up in such uncertainty and with the responsibility of keeping their little ones safe. The most faultless parenting in the world cannot stop anyone from the sheer bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, my daughter and I agreed, we must all just get on with our lives while being sensible and mindful.
We then moved our conversation on to the fun the boys had had at school on Friday when they had to go dressed as the person they would like to be when they grow up.
Thus it was that Mummy found herself hurrying along the residential roads of an English market town in the company of two pint-sized and over-excited dinosaur hunters, her arms filled with containers of cakes and other goodies she’d baked for the school’s sale for Children in Need.
That’s what life is about: the everyday, the slightly dotty, the happiness that comes from little things. We should try never to let it be about fear and despair.