By this point, you have probably heard about the horrific news story that hit every mother like a ton of bricks when she heard it: the Upper West Side nanny who, by all appearances, fatally stabbed her 2-year-old and 6-year-old charges in the bathtub while their mother was out with their 3-year-old sister.
We read the story and find it unbearable to live even a sliver of that mother’s nightmare: coming home to a dark apartment, asking where her children are, and then turning the lights on to the knowledge that life can never, ever be the same. Even thinking of that mother puts a terrible taste in my mouth, sour horror tinged with a metallic panic.
We read the stories, cringing at the idea that the nanny, the babysitter, the person whom we trust with our children, whether for days and nights or hours at a time, could possibly be suspect. Obviously, there is no “best case” scenario for children being murdered. But somehow, the idea that such a horrific crime against such beautiful innocence could be perpetrated by someone that we ourselves let into the house and our lives adds yet another terrifying element to an already awful scenario.
What is there to say? We feel unspeakably bad for the parents and the sister of the victims, and their entire families. We feel profoundly unsettled at the idea of our trust being betrayed by someone in whom we have placed the ultimate trust – the safety of our children.
There is no answer to any of the questions that linger after hearing this story. There is no reason why such lovely children died in such a terrible way. There is no ability to comprehend the mental illness, or crime, that would drive someone to commit such an act. There is no moral that we can draw from this story. There are no words that can make it all better.
What we can do, though, is extend those words, and those hands of compassion to that family. And I think we should try to extend that compassion to other parents in situations not prompted by tragedy as well.
I read that comments on this story on one particular website would be heavily monitored and censored so as to preclude hurting the family involved. Perhaps the writers of that statement knew that without that moderation, commenters would engage in kneejerk Internet posturing, spouting needless bombast on “this is why you should parent your own children rather than using a nanny” and other bullshit that, in this particular context, seems pretty damn uncaring.
But I’d argue that instead of the comments being heavily censored, instead, we should use our own judgment and moderate our own reactions, seasoning them with experience and compassion. It’s not our place to judge parents who use childcare, who stay home with the children, who work outside the home, etc.
It’s our place to make our own decisions for ourselves and our children. And in the aftermath of such a terrible tragedy, it’s our obligation to send a note to the parents conveying our sympathy, and to hold our own children close this evening and savor their presence.