What Do I Say to My Children?

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I’m going to flip the script on you guys. I normally post about food and recipes on Wednesday but, in light of the recent events in Boston and a subsequent conversation that I had with Thing 1, I decided to post the food blog on Friday.

Initially, I had not intended to post anything regarding this matter because whenever tragedies like this happen, the internet is flooded with posts of sympathy and support, encouraging messages and the like and, while I totally understand, I really didn’t think that I needed to add my voice to the chorus.  Since I am often with “little ears”, I have stayed away from the television and radio so, what little information that I have seen has been from the internet.  I knew that my little ones (especially Thing 1) would come in contact with some news from somewhere, probably school, and that I would have to address it and that’s exactly what happened.

It’s not that I don’t know what to say, or at least, what I want to say, but it is more that I am really annoyed that I have been put in the position that I have to talk with a six-year-old about something so very ugly, senseless and brutal.  Believe me, this is not going to be a “How to Talk to Your Kids About Ugly, Senseless and Brutal Acts of Violence” post. I am not a child psychology expert (on second thought, I am a mother of five so I may actually be a child psychology expert) and this is not an advice blog.  However, I do want to be able to answer their questions honestly and have an open dialogue without jeopardizing their feeling of security.  Seriously, how long do we think that we can keep that in tact?

The day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Thing 1 came home and told me that one of her friends told her that 20 kids and six adults at her school were shot and killed.  These are first graders so their facts can be a little sketchy. She was perfectly calm, but not carefree, when she told me this.  In all of her six-year-old naivety, she had no real concept of what her day really would have been like if that had actually been the case.  I sat her down and told her that while it was true that 20 children and six adults had been killed, it was not true that it had happened at her school.    I reassured her that she is safe when she goes to school and then we prayed for the victims and their families as well as the perpetrator and his family.  Case closed.  She was all good.

Here we are again, and I fully expected this day to come because that is the world that we now live in – increasingly violent and ugly.  However, expecting it doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t alleviate my annoyance.  Children deserve to be naive and carefree.  They are supposed to live a life that I like t refer to as “Huxtablesque”.  Remember the Cosby show? So simple and so enjoyable.  Children are supposed to have lives that simple and enjoyable.  Their problems are supposed to consist of : will I get the part that I want in the school play?  Or, when is my next play date? Or, why do I only have hot pink sandals and not light pink sandals (this one was actually a real dilemma in my house this morning)?  Eight-year-olds are supposed to be learning multiplication and playing  softball, not dying as collateral damage in a war being waged by some unknown assailant against some unspecified target.  I shouldn’t have to explain that to my five and six-year-olds. Yet, here I am again.

Again, Thing 1 learned about the bombing from the apparent newscaster for her classroom.  Again, she had questions and again I tried to answer them, while putting her mind at ease, because my number one priority is to reassure my child that I am here to protect her and not to let fear creep into her mind and paralyze her.   Fear is debilitating.  There were the usual who?  (“I don’t know”), what ? (“Bombs at the finish line…”) and why?  (“I don’t know”).  But, then she asked a question that just blew me away and left me searching for an appropriate answer.  She asked, “Momma, why do some grown ups hate so much?”   There were a lot of possible answers to that question but, none that I really thought that she’d completely understand.

“I don’t know, Sweetie. But, we can’t hate because they hate,” I responded.

“No,” she said, “we have to forgive.”

With that, she was off to her dance class and hasn’t brought it up again. Of course, she has no idea of the real cost of the lives lost and forever changed.  She has no concept of national security or political games.  She has no thoughts about how the world has changed, yet again.  However, she is right, forgiveness does have its place in all of this.

We will be here again and the questions will get harder and more troubling.  I will still be annoyed and searching for answers. It would be nice to think that one day we are all going to wake up and stop all of the violence and unrest.  Totally unrealistic to expect but, a wonderful fantasy. For now I will take comfort in knowing that my six-year-old has a lot more figured out  (and a lot more heart) than most grown ups.

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