Not that long ago, a horrific terrorist attack took place in my hometown of Oslo, killing more than 80 innocent people, many of them young teenagers and young adults.
I was in the city that day, and can still remember the fear and panic and just utter shock that something like this could happen in our peaceful, safe part of the globe. I can still remember the taxi driver – who was from Pakistan, he told me – refusing to accept payment from me, saying that he was just trying to help people get home from the city that day, as the subway and trains had been suspended.
The next morning, waking up to the news, learning that the person who had committed these horrible crimes, was one of my own country-men – and just because of his anti-muslim views – it was an eye-opener, a heart-breaking one at that – as to just how broken the world has become.
Yesterday, this happened again. In New Zealand – a country which not only looks so much like my own Norway, with its fjords and mountains and beautiful landscape, but that is also considered by the world at large to be a safe, fair and inclusive country where people are kind and tolerant with each other.
Tucking my own two children safely into bed last night, I wept for all those children who now will never again have their mum or dad tuck them in at night. Or those parents who just had their own children so brutally and pointlessly taken away from them.
It is heartbreaking and scary and terrifying. And so, so unimaginable. How can someone decide to walk into a place of worship and kill people – just because they believe in something different? How can someone run a car into crowds of people, families, children, just out enjoying themselves, like Nice a few years back? Or, like Manchester, blow themselves up in a room full of children and young adults out for the night? What drives someone to do something like that?
So many questions, so much anger and blame and sheer desperation.
Who is responsible? Why does this keep happening? What is not being done? What needs to be done? Police and politicians, all put on the spot, asked to answer how this could happen. Whole religions and ethnic groups are asked to answer for what only a minority of them believe in. How did they let this happen? Who can we blame? What can we do?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask these questions, they matter. We need to do something, anything, to mend this broken world we are living in. Need to find a way to live together, to live and let live.
It can be overwhelming to try to help at all with this. To see how little old me and little old you can make a difference. I mean; when peace brokers and politicians and world leaders can’t come together to find a way, to make peace, how the heck can you and I do it?
Well, think about it for a second. Right now, the future is asleep in nurseries and bedrooms across the world. At this very minute, the politicians and police officers and lawyers and leaders and movers and shakers of the future, they are all fast asleep in their beds, blissfully unaware what a mess we have left for them to deal with. What huge responsibilities rest on their as-of-yet tiny shoulders.
But this is our job, mamas. This is where it matters. Where we will do our job, our very most important job.
We will raise children who will love and tolerate and care and lend a hand. Children who will grow into adults who will continue to do those things. Who will teach everyone they meet to do those things. Who will show compassion. Who will include. Who will speak up for those who can’t speak up for themselves. Who will not be afraid to use their voice to make a change – always.
There is an invisible thread of motherhood that binds us all together, no matter who we are or where we come from, it is there, and we must remind each other of it, and of how the job we are doing, raising these children, is for all of us. For the future.
One of my very favourite authors and inspirational people, in general, is Astrid Lindgren – the Swedish author most known for her many children’s books, among them the stories about Pippi Longstocking.
Lindgren, of course, famously came up with the Pippi stories one evening when she was tending to her young daughter, Karin, who was sick in bed with pneumonia, who suddenly turned to her mother and asked: “Mama, can you tell me a story about a girl called Pippi Longstocking?”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Lindgren was also, on top of her unique talent when it came to inventing and telling stories to children, a big believer in the concept of childhood and children’s rights to a good childhood. A safe and happy home. She spoke often of the importance of creating a childhood full of happy memories, and fun and tales and last, but not least love.
“Give children love, love and more love,” she famously said once. “and common sense will follow naturally.”
I firmly believe that too.
Another one of her sayings, one I keep pinned to my fridge at home and try to remind myself of every day is this one: “World peace starts in your children’s rooms.” (Värdensfreden starter på barnrummet.”)
And she is right, of course. That is where it starts. Understanding, love and compassion, those are not born in government offices or around the tables at the UN, even. They need to be there already come that stage. We need to start early.
Our children’s rooms, our homes, that is where minds are shaped and mindsets thaught. Where we can, each and every one of us, make sure that hate and prejudice and intolerance and anger doesn’t grow and doesn’t spread. Where we can pour our children so full of all things good, and let them know they need to keep paying that forward, that the future will look different.
Better. Safer. And far more filled with love.