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Claire McCarthy, M.D. Headshot

How the Explosions at the Boston Marathon Changed Parenthood Forever for Me

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The explosions at the Boston Marathon have changed parenthood forever for me.

I found out about them from my daughter, who was running away from the scene. She was right there, close enough to see the explosions, just yards away.

She asked me to turn on the TV and find out what was happening. She stayed on the phone with me while I found out that nobody knew what was happening, but that there were dead and severely injured people.

Keep going, I told her. Get away. I want to come home, she said. Just get to your apartment, I said. It may not be safe to come get you, or for you to take the train. Just get to your apartment and stay inside.

Once she got to her apartment, that's when I started to shake.

There is just so much that is there-but-for-the-grace-of-God about this. We live outside Boston, but Michaela is 22 and lives in Boston and wanders the city all the time -- all of us do, actually. My 15-year-old rides the T to and from school in Boston every day. My husband and I work there, and we visit museums and other public areas of the city frequently. I've run the marathon and hung out at the finish line. We never even think about bombs.

Now we'll have to. And that will change everything.

While I was watching Twitter, hoping to find some news, I saw a Tweet go by. While you're praying for the people in Boston, it said, remember the people who just died in the blast in Afghanistan. At first I thought, wow, that was kind of snarky. And then it hit me: That's us now.

I've always thought of the United States as being, well, safer than other places. Bad things happen elsewhere, but not here. We can walk the streets and we'll be OK. That got shaken after 9/11, but soon, we got back to thinking that danger wouldn't touch us here. But, it's becoming increasingly clear that danger can indeed touch us. I can't deny it anymore; it happened in my city, and my daughter was there. Right there.

And here's the hard part: As a mother, I can't change it and I can't prevent it. I can't stop the anger, hatred and mental health problems that fuel violence. I can't prevent my child from being at the wrong place at the wrong time. If the finish line of a marathon isn't safe, all bets are off. I can teach everyone to be careful, but unless I am going to keep everyone home forever (which might not be safe either), the hard truth is that any of them could be hurt or taken from me.

I've often marveled at how people who live in places like Jerusalem, Kabul, Baghdad or Damascus do things like go to the market or to restaurants or let their children go to school. What courage it must take, I've thought. I've wondered: Do they decide not to let it rule their lives? Does the danger become so ordinary that they get used to feeling afraid? Do they learn to treasure and appreciate all that is precious, knowing that it's all at risk every single day? How do they move forward and live and raise their children?

Now, I will need to answer those questions for myself. I cannot keep my children inside all the time -- especially not the ones who are grown. I don't want to raise my children to be terrified, either; I want them to be brave and hopeful and empowered.

I am angry. I want to change this. I want people to help. It's wrong and unfair.

But I can't change it overnight. Nobody can. So, somehow, I need to find the courage and peace to be the parent I need to be now.

First, I think, I need to stop shaking. And bring Michaela home with me today and hold her very tight.

claire mccarthy notforreuse