As we were walking up the lane my 4-year-old (who notices far too many things!) asked me why our flag was lower than normal. This was a conversation that I was not ready for.
“Mommy, why is our flag low?”
“Well sweetie, there are soldiers who protect us and keep us safe and one of them got hurt. That makes us sad so we moved the flag so it’s sad too.”
“How did he get hurt?”
“A very bad man shot him with a gun and he died.” (We live in the country and have guns on the property. Both boys know what guns are but have only seen us shoot skeet.)
“Did Papa shoot him?” (Papa and G.G. are the licensed gunmen in this household so we don’t do anything without one of them around.)
“No darling, Papa never shoots a gun at a person.”
Then he was quiet. I thought I was going to be okay until he continued.
“Is a bad man going to shoot me?” (Oh crap.)
“No honey, the bad man isn’t going to hurt anybody again. We’re safe from him, the police and soldiers made sure of that.”
“Did they lock him up in jail?”
“They wanted to but he wouldn’t let them and they had to shoot him which made them very sad too.”
“Mommy, are you sad too?”
“Yes, it’s always sad when people do bad things but I’m very happy that you’re home from school now.”
“Do I have to be sad too?”
“We can all be a little bit sad when something bad happens but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your toys and your brother. You’re certainly supposed to be happy because look who’s waiting for you in the garage!”
Cue the excited howl as he spies his father (poor kid hasn’t seen his dad since Sunday) and the end of that conversation. Hopefully I won’t have to go through that again anytime soon although once I caught up to him he was busy hugging his dad and explaining that “the flag is low because we’re sad that the bad man with the gun killed the soldier!”
Obviously he’s going to remember that conversation but hopefully we won’t refer to it again before I can do some pretty intense thinking about how to explain these things to him. I know the experts say tell the truth in words that the child is developmentally able to accept and I think that’s a fine idea just not when I’m hungry and unable to eat because of a killer toothache from Monday’s root canal!
I’m sure that I could have handled that a bit better. I want to teach my boys that bad things happen but we should always try to see the good. This afternoon proves that I need to figure out exactly how I plan to do that and be ready at all times.
Especially when something happens in the world. Just because I don’t watch the news on television doesn’t mean that my boys won’t figure out what’s happening in the world. They’re smarter than that, they’re smarter than I generally think they should be, obviously I’m not or I would have seen this coming…but I didn’t. That’s it, I just didn’t see it coming. I’m sure that I’m not the only one. Hopefully the next time I have to address something like this I’ll be less surprised.
Knowing me, I’ll be just as gobsmacked next time too.