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.Â 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.