As parents, I believe we do our best to shield and protect our children from the darkness of the world. It is our hope they will go forth as beacons of light and love. However, there are times that the darkness creeps in, despite even our most valiant efforts to shut it out. When this happens, what do we do, and how do we react?
Already this year, my child came home from Pre-Kindergarten and asked why New York got ‘blowed up’? My heart literally sank when I heard his small voice ask those words to my husband and I. When we asked where he heard that, he said from a friend at school. Ah…yes. It was already starting. I thought we had years still to shield his heart from these bad parts of the outside world. As I like to put it, to keep him living in a world only of rainbows and unicorns. To be honest, I quietly freaked out a little. I wasn’t prepared for this conversation yet. Especially not at 4 years old. However, he was not yet ready, either, so we kept it simple and said New York was not blown up. Bad people did some bad things and many people were hurt. That was all he needed to know for now. And, that was enough for him.
When the news broke on Sunday of the crisis in our city of Orlando, it consumed both my husband and me. We needed to know what was happening. We prayed while in church. We listened on the radio. However, we were cautious to not let our son hear any of this.
How do you explain a horrific tragedy to a not quite 5 year old? I wanted to simplify it and make a solid statement to him for fear another child in his class on Monday would make a smart remark, instead, but I just couldn’t find the words.
Yesterday, as we pulled into his summer camp, he saw the flags flying at half-mast and immediately wanted to know why. Then, the words just came out. In the car, of all places, as we were about to rush on our way. There was no formal sit-down. It just happened. I told him our city was sad because a very bad man hurt a lot of people on Sunday, and so, sometimes the American flag is flown half way up the pole to show that you are sorry for something that happened. And then, we talked some more about what half-mast means. When I dropped him off again today, he saw the flag still flying the same & noted it to me. He asked if Orlando was still sad. I said yes. He asked when they would stop being sad, and I was honest, and told him it takes a long time to heal so he might see the flag like this for awhile.
My sweet boy has a big heart and while I know he does not grasp the magnitude of what has occurred this past week, that is OK. He does not need to yet.