Before I had children, I watched or listened to the news daily. It was a part of my routine. Now, with two little ones, I get my daily news brief from wral.com. I skim through headlines and read any article that interests me. I then check the 5 day forecast and continue with the rest of my day. Usually, this process takes no more than 5 minutes…much shorter than the 30 minute newscast I used to watch or listen to in the car on the way home from work. But, my priorities are a little different now and my car rides are not as quiet as the used to be…
This weekend, Callie was in my office rehearsing her sight words while I was getting my news fix on wral.com. She saw a picture of a little girl from western NC who was killed and her remains recently found. In her curious 5-year-old way, Callie asked me why that little girl was on the news. My mother hen instinct kicked in and I wanted to say something like, “she was found alive” or “she won an award” or anything other than the truth…ANYTHING but she was killed by those who were supposed to love and protect and care for her and her remains have now been found by the police…
What do you do in those moments as a parent?? Well of course, you tell the truth, but how much of the truth and how in the world do you preserve your children’s innocence in the process?
I took a deep breath, prayed a quick “Lord, help!” looked at Callie and said, “Well, sweetheart, she was killed and the police have found her body.” You can imagine the 30 minute conversation that ensued:
Callie: “Mommy, who killed her?”
Me: “They think her stepmother killed her.”
Callie: “Oh no, mommy! Why would her step mom want to kill her?”
~Insert another deep breath taken by me!~
Me: “I don’t know baby…sometimes people make terrible, terrible choices.”
Callie: “That was a horrible choice…mom…you would never hurt me.”
Me: “That’s right, baby. I would never ever hurt you on purpose. I will always love you.”
Callie: “I love you, too, mommy.”
I exhaled, but knew the conversation wasn’t over. A few quiet moments followed as Callie scurried to the playroom and came back with her snack. She climbed up on my lap and said, “Mom, sometimes people make bad choices don’t they?” I said, “Yes, Callie, we all make bad choices. It is important to remember that all of our choices have consequences, good and bad.”
We talked for another 20 minutes or so. I will spare you all the details! In the end, Callie was out of questions, but her peace was back. My peace was back, too.
I know I can’t protect her and Sean from reality forever, but I do know that their innocence and purity is something that I want to safeguard for as long as I can. I try to keep several things in mind as I am parenting them:
- Always be honest, but do no harm. In other words, tell them the truth but spare the nasty details that they don’t need to know about. Callie did not need to know all the details about the little girl’s death and remains.
- Be available to talk about reality and things that happen. TALK to your children and LISTEN to them. Help them understand things that don’t seem to fit into their current framework of how life is supposed to work. Yes, this takes a lot of time, but your children are worth it.
- Exposure. There are certain things children should never be exposed to. This is all relative to their ages. As they age, their exposure broadens. This is also dependent on your belief system. Be with your children when they are in a position to be exposed to things that you would not normally allow, for example, things on the Internet. And, when they are exposed prematurely, talk about it with them.
As my children age, their innocence will continue to be assaulted. William Butler Yeats so aptly captured this inevitable truth, “The innocent and the beautiful have no enemy but time”. I can’t stop the hands of time, but with God’s help I can be prepared for those unavoidable moments. The key is taking the time to communicate with my kids and not expecting someone else to take care of those things for me.
“Innocence is always unsuspicious.” ~ Thomas C. Haliburton