This World Isn’t Good Enough

My heart broke as a mom this week: The sources of that pain generated far from Atlanta — 2,500 miles away in Palo Alto and 500 miles away in Orlando — but I felt a crushing pain in my chest as I held my baby against it.  While as a reporter and producer I’ve covered major tragedies — the tsunami in Japan, a teenage serial killer, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombings, homeless teenagers, I unfortunately could keep listing — all of that work was B.G….Before Graham.

I sat talking with my husband on our couch, while Graham was joyfully distracted by a rare few minutes of TV:  The juxtaposition of his giggles induced by Madagascar 2 and the topics of our conversation made me want to cry.  The only way I could articulate my feelings to my husband at first were through the loaded words, “this world isn’t good enough for him.”  It isn’t good enough for Graham, for his two little teeth, for his curly natural Mohawk, or for his tiny body that barely weighs more than the assault rifle wielded to take 50 innocent lives this past weekend.  It isn’t good enough for him, it isn’t good enough for his three precious siblings, and mommies, this world isn’t good enough for any of your babies.

This world isn't good enough parenting (2)This world where a convicted rapist is still branded “Stanford swimmer” in the headlines and will likely only serve three months…this world where the kind of weapons that allow you to shoot and hit 103 innocent people in 10 minutes are accessible…this world where victims are blamed, and where the primary rhetoric of an election, which will choose the next leader of the free world, is largely defined by hate mongering.

This world is largely the same world in which I’ve loved my three (S)kids for the past four years, but it’s bothering me more now, and I do believe it’s getting worse.  At least with our older kids we’ve been able to talk about violence, while we could never explain it or understand it, we could grapple with it and discuss it.  After Sandy Hook, we told them of the heroes, like their uncle, a Connecticut state trooper who rescued children from that school.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, we told them of the wounded helping carry one another to safety.  And, yes, after Stanford we can tell them about the Swedish men who rescued that Jane Doe. Even after Orlando, we can tell them of the good people waiting for hours in the steaming rain and beating sun to give blood…but what can we tell Graham?  What can you tell your babies?  We can’t.  Their worlds are full of milk, giggles, and words like “I love you.”  These sweet innocents don’t understand the concepts of depth or waiting or naps…much less death or terrorism or violence. The bad things happening are defining the world our babies will grow up in, babies who don’t know bad exists.  What’s the worst thing in their dreams or night terrors? A world without milk?  Or a world where someone takes their toys?

My husband’s response when I said that this world wasn’t good enough for Graham or his siblings was simple, sincere, and spot-on:

“Maybe he can make it better.”

Mommies, he can and your babies can, but it’s on you and on me to help them be able to.  We have to help our babies be better, to do better.  And not just by tenderly loving them and caring for them…we have to give them tough love too.

We have to teach them to love.  Not just to love their family and their friends and people like them — to love everyone, no matter how similar or different they are in terms of background, race, religion, lifestyle, or sexual preferences.  This means telling them love and showing them love, not making those little judgmental passing comments people often think kids don’t pick up on.  They do.  As mommas, if hateful words cross our lips, it’s only a disservice to our own children.

We have to teach them to not see “the other,” but instead to see that everyone was once someone’s baby and everyone inherently deserves love and respect.

We have to teach them “no.”  Not just “no” to more chocolate ice cream and a later bedtime, but a bigger “no” in terms of their rights end where someone else’s begin.

We have to teach them that even without the word “no” they should know when to stop behavior that could hurt someone or take someone’s dignity.  If it doesn’t feel right, odds are it isn’t right.

We have to teach them about the ugly side of the world and we have to do it directly, early, and often. It will be uncomfortable, talking about “rape,” about “sexual assault,” about “binge drinking.”  But because we love them we have to do it.

And, worst, God forbid our own sweet innocents do mess up and hurt someone, we have to teach them to take responsibility.  We have to teach them that while they’re our perfect little babies and we’ll always love them unconditionally, that they are not in fact perfect.  They are fallible and when they make a poor decision, they have to own it.  We can’t be blinded by the beauty of our own babies and we can’t tell ourselves that we don’t need to have these conversations with them because surely “my child would never.” No mom thinks her child would ever, as she carries them in her stomach, nurses them, or tucks them in. When our children do wrong, we must still love them, but we cannot excuse them.  If we do, we’re only enabling them.

Now, sweet mommas, here’s the good part:   We will shape our children, through our actions and inactions, conscious and subconscious, more than any other individual will.  There are no guarantees in this life, but the greatest power we have is to teach our children well.  And the most bittersweet lesson we have to share with our babies is that while this world may never be good enough, they are good, they can make it better, and that is enough.

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Ashley B
Ashley is a television reporter and network news producer turned part-time journalist and full-time (S)Mom to Andrew (15), Elizabeth (14), Spencer (8), and Mom to Graham (Almost a year and counting!). Instead of chasing storms, booking major interviews with serial killers, and breaking news, she is now chasing after allergy free food in Atlanta, booking activities for the four kids, and hopefully NOT breaking the wine glasses…because let’s be honest, most of us mommies need those! She still works part-time as a reporter and a freelance producer for 20/20. After graduating from Harvard College then living in New York while attending Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and working for ABC, Ashley is thrilled to be back in her native southland. She lives with her husband and best friend, Chris, and the kiddos in East Cobb, where she loves long runs, thick books, and big glasses of wine or champagne, best enjoyed on a porch.


  1. Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t articulate… you are right about trying to help our kids make the world a better place. Right now I’m still trying to get over the fear and hopelessness that I are in my heart. I may need to read your post a few more times.

    • Jennifer… Thank you for the kind words and support. It’s bittersweet that this message can resonate, because while I hope it helps, I wish it didn’t need to. I know those feelings of fear and hopelessness for our babies, but people like you and yours will make it better. I’m reminded of an often used, but no less good, Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:

      “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

  2. Ashley(Elizabetlh) Bridges, so well said and written. I hope many, many people get to read this! So very proud of you!

    • It is so good to hear from you and I’m glad this touched your heart: YOU have certainly made the work a better place! I hope you’re able to share this and that it helps someone you love and gives them hope… Thank you for all the love and support over the years; you played such a role in helping me grow.

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