Hudson, age 3.75, is currently fixated on being “the good guy.” He suits up with imaginary bows and arrows, sticky splats, and “shooters” (his workaround because I don’t like guns) and goes to imaginary battle with all ranges of bad guys all day long.

It is clear that I have lost the battle for nuance—that my rhetorical questions:

  • What’s the difference between a good guy and a bad guy?
  • What makes someone “good?”
  • Did you know a bad guy probably thinks they might be the good guy?
  • Did you know that some bad guys are actually good guys that have had a harder time in life?
  • Can a woman be a good guy

…Have fallen on completely deaf ears.

What matters is victory. And today, after he successfully reclaimed weapons from Doctor Octopus’ secret lair, he completed rejected my suggestion that we bury the weapons, or better yet, destroy them. Good guys need weapons, he argued.

“Why?” I asked.

“They just do,” he said, simply. Case closed.

It’s left me with a lot to ponder, given the events of the world and the seemingly cut-and-dry nature of the war in Ukraine—where Putin suddenly has the power to make me question my own nuanced approach to good and bad. Where there seems to be little room for nuance about who is the aggressor and who is the victim, there seems to be a sliding scale of nuance about sanctions, and economics, and escalation, and “the greater good.” It’s enough to make a head spin. It’s enough to make this pacifist wonder if my three-year-old is right, that “good guys DO need weapons.”

And so my head is spinning as I sit behind a computer screen and numb myself with a Harry Potter audiobook, but it feels so useless, and Jeremy’s launching a marketing campaign at work that he freely admits feels “hollow and tonedeaf” given the state of things and the precarious balance of a world beholden to a dictator’s bruised ego. And we feel consternation about business as usual, and yet, comforted by it at the same time—by the safety of our home, by the security of our electric vehicle. We’re comforted, grimly, by the rather likely fact that I will deliver a baby in a maternity ward in exactly one week that won’t be bombed by a Russian army.

We feel relatively safe, and guilty about it.

But these are short-term comforts, because I’m bringing another child into the world in a week, when stakes have never felt higher (at least in my lifetime). Where across the world, maternity wards are being bombed, where we’re all at the whims of a man with access to an arsenal of nuclear warheads, where economic volatility may de-stablize the this facade of financial “stability” Jeremy and I have tried to build up, where a child’s identity has become a dirty word in Florida, where parents are trying to blot out uncomfortable truths in textbooks as nearby as a neighboring school district, where facts are so easily manipulated with soundbites and photoshop, where COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 6 million people and still exists outside the walls of my home.

I’m guilty about the safety I feel, and shocked by how unerringly vulnerable the world I am bringing up children is at the same time.

Stability is not guaranteed.

And I’m watching my child fighting for pretend, and wondering what it looks like in a few years when he’s old enough to fight for real. Will I be able to keep my children safe? Will I be able to keep them whole? Will we still be the good guys? Is there such a thing?

These are the fears of a mother. Barraged, but not under siege.