When Children Are Murdered- Innocence Lost

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When Children Are Murdered- Innocence Lost

Last Friday night the dark haired beauty made an announcement at the dinner table. “A man in Arizona tried to kill lots of ladies. He shot 10 and killed six of them.” I furrowed my brow and asked her to tell me what she was talking about. It wasn’t because I didn’t know that she was referring to Jared Loughner and his actions in Tucson. I knew precisely, but I wanted to try and figure out what she knew and how she had heard.

You see the dark haired beauty is 6.5 going on 30. She is a first grader who is a on a mission to magically transform herself into a girl who is old enough to do whatever her big brother does. And while I appreciate that I am not interested in having her innocence destroyed overnight.  She knows that the world can sometimes be a dark and dangerous place but I prefer for some of those details to be withheld.

“Dad, you read the news all the time. How can you not know about the bad man.” I shook my head and silently wondered why she has to be so much like me. Must she answer a question with a question. For a moment I ignored her question and asked her to tell us what she knew. We learned that the music teacher at school had talked about it but it wasn’t clear to me how it came up or frankly why it did. It also wasn’t clear to me whether she knew about the little girl who was murdered and though I wasn’t going to volunteer it I needed to know.

This is the kind of conversation that I want to be careful with. I can’t gloss over it but I don’t want my children to walk away being scared of the world either. Since it was during dinner her brother was a part of the discussion too. The difference is that he and I have already had some of these conversations, Several years ago we talked about why Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. A few years after that we talked about what a gas chamber is and why people would use them.

These were painful discussions for a whole variety of reasons. But part of what hurt was knowing that a piece of innocence was being taken away. Part of the trick to these fireside talks with the kids is to provide them with a small amount of information. They don’t need a ton of details. Just a few highlights and reassurance that the sun is still going to rise and set in the same places.

It is a formula that has worked very well and it was fine for my daughter. However her older brother is growing more sophisticated and later on I found us engaged in a longer talk about good and evil. But I’ll save that conversation for a different post.

A few hours after dinner had ended the dark haired beauty lay in bed talking to me. I sat on the floor next to her bed and smiled as she read a story to me. Her hair was still slightly damp from the shower and her breath was minty fresh from the toothpaste. It was sort of surreal, this child of mine felt both big and little to me. After she finished reading I told her it was time to turn out the lights. She said that she loved me and gave me a huge hug.

In a soft voice she asked, “Daddy, do bad people kill children too?” I smiled at her and told her not to worry because my job is to take care of protecting her. She asked me what would happen if the bad people came to school and I wasn’t there. So I lied and said that if they came to school I would too. And then she grabbed my cheeks, looked me in the eye and told me not to kid around. I stared right back at her and said again that I would get them first.

She nodded her head and then told me that if bad people ever to try to hurt her family I must kill them. I am not really sure if she completely understood what she asked me to do, but I told her that I would. A few minutes later she was fast asleep and I walked into the living room and muttered a silent prayer that it never comes to that. Not because I am incapable or unwilling to protect my children because that is not even a question.

But because that is the kind of situation that I’d rather leave in the land of hypotheticals and nightmares. Sometimes this parenting thing is hard.

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13 Comments

  1. westbankmama January 18, 2011 at 4:44 am

    Great post Jack. In some parts of Israel this question – how do you answer kids questions without scaring them – is further complicated by the need to prepare them for what they need to do in an emergency. The kids in Sderot and the kibbutzim around the area need to know that when the Tzeva Adom – Red Alert is sounded they have to run to the bomb shelter, because a kassam rocket is coming in. Imagine being a kindergarden teacher and having to teach your class this. Now imagine how the men feel about it – and you can guess why when the IDF finally went into Gaza to fight Hamas there were reserve soldiers volunteering to serve.

    • Jack January 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Hey WBM,

      I don’t know how the families in Sderot do it. That sort of uncertainty would make me lose my mind. I have to doubt that if I were there I would have been among those clamoring to go into Gaza.

  2. Rusty January 18, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I think there’s a difference between innocence and naiveté.
    I think you answer their questions very well and age-appropriately. Our children don’t lose their innocence when they learn the reality of evil, they become less naive. It’s when they participate in this evil that they lose their innocence, and then it’s our job to help them learn how to receive forgiveness and make restitution for their mistakes.
    Anyway, I guess that’s my opinion on it. I really enjoy your blog.

    • Jack January 18, 2011 at 12:11 am

      Hi Rusty,

      Thanks for coming by, I appreciate it. I like the way that you distinguished between innocence and naivete. It makes a lot of sense to me.

  3. Jack January 17, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    They say little kids=little problems and that big kids equal big problems. Mine aren’t old enough yet to say how much truth there is, but I can see inklings of it.

    We’re all learning how to do this as we go along.

  4. Jared Karol January 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Wow, Jack. . .and I thought it was hard dealing w/ twin toddlers throwing simultaneous tantrums. I guess it really doesn’t get easier, does it? Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    Jared

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  6. Vincent January 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing what must have been an excruciating difficult situation to handle. My children, both toddlers, are still some what shielded from the news at this point. And yet, the day will certainly come when the questions they pose will require thoughtful answers to incomprehensible scenarios.

    I wrote down some thoughts about the challenges parents face divulging certain truths to their children. It’s interesting to read the comments about how other parents have tackled the subject.

    Lying to Your Children

    • Jack January 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Vincent,

      I remember that post of yours and I still feel the same way. Sometimes it is better to lie to the children or omit details that they just don’t need to know. I don’t feel like it affects your integrity as a person.

      The goal here is to educate your child and to keep them calm. So you provide age appropriate details.

  7. Tessasdad January 17, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I’m dreading those questions for exactly the same reason – the piece of innocence which gets chipped away as they learn about the horrors of our world.

    I liked your response by the way. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jack January 17, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      These are the questions that have no answers. There is nothing good that we can say, at least from an adult perspective. Truth be told when my wife’s purse was stolen at Target I was far more upset by the questions my son asked. That’s not to say that this wasn’t tough, but that was a little bit more personal.

      It is not easy.

  8. Frume Sarah January 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I hate when they back us into a corner like that. They want the certainty that we will always protect them as much as we want the certainty that we can always protect them.

    Sigh…

    • Jack January 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      It is hard sometimes to answer because we know how easily life can turn. We know how one day it can all be different. It is the great challenge, but no one said that the job would be easy. 😉

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