My son is seven years old. He’s an amazing kid, a little too much attitude like his dad sometimes, but he’s got a great heart and just wants to be your best friend. I’m on the verge of having to start telling him about what’s going on in the world, there’s just no hiding it any longer, the questions are coming and I’m not going to be able to pull the covers over my head any longer. I’m scared.
Just like every kid he hears things. He hears them on television, on the radio, from kids at school. Last week he was playing in the living room while I was watching Ken Burns’ Vietnam, and then he heard me listening to Good Night Saigon by Billy Joel in the car, he recognized the word Saigon which precipitated a conversation about the war in Vietnam, and then the concept of war itself. Lord that was hard to explain.
I’m doing the best I can to keep his innocence a little longer. I try not to watch breaking news at home when he’s around, I turn off NPR in the car when they’re talking about one of our recent acts of terrorism, domestic or otherwise. Shoot, even my wife will tell you I just don’t even think it’s necessary to take my kids to a funeral. They’re seven and four, why do they need to hear about death?
Are there classes on how to start having these conversations? If so I’d love to sign up for one. How do you talk to your kids about why people went to a concert and were shot, or went to church and were shot, or were walking on a sidewalk and run over by a truck? I never thought that out of all the things I was worried about when I became a parent this would be one of the most difficult. I guess it’s not all that much different than wanting to protect them from bumps and bruises. You want to keep them safe. But a scrape I can react to. I know what to do. A scrape = a BandAid and some Neosporin. What the hell does a mass shooting equal?
I’m sure things like this had to happen when I was a kid. I do have a very vivid memory of getting upset when I heard that the first Gulf War had started. I don’t really know why but I did. I was seven, my son’s age. I remember Oklahoma City and Columbine for sure, but I just don’t remember an onslaught of challenging news like our kids seem to face now-a-days. News that just seems to be there to steal away their innocence.
We’ll get through it. I know we will. My son is smart, his ability to register, digest, and process information is amazing. Until someone tells me about a better method I’ll just have to keep doing what my parents did for me: teach him that there are everyday heroes out there, and there’s always cause for optimism. For every bad person doing a bad thing there’s ten people doing amazing things. I will teach him to be one of those people doing amazing things for others. That’s the way we win. But, I’m still scared to death of that first time he comes to me and says, “Why did this happen?”