The link to The New York Times Motherlode blog, How Not to Talk With Children About the Sandy Hook Shooting, by KJ Dell’Antonia, could not have come at a better time. It’s Sunday. I am thinking about school tomorrow, not only because of the big picture issues, but also because of the small, personal ones.
My seven-year-old knows nothing about the school shooting. What if a classmate brings it up? Will she feel more afraid because she’s hearing about it from a peer? Should I bring it up first?
This dilemma lives somewhere in my mind next to the other tugging thoughts- empathetic grief for the parents in Connecticut and sadness that until now a rational discussion of the impact of gun violence has been a polarizing issue filled with fear and deflection, instead of an opportunity for leadership.
My dear friend from high school wrote to me on Friday, wondering what I might be thinking about the events in Newtown, Connecticut. But it was her own Facebook post, borrowed from her cousin that I kept firmly in my mind that day. It was a quote from Mr. Rogers: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of "disaster", I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in the world."
Late Friday night, awake with a fever, my four-year-old hopped into my bed and after some Motrin, slept the rest of the night snuggled up next to me. The first words out of her mouth on Saturday morning, when she woke up and looked at me were:
“I don’t want to be shot at school.”
We’d had no news coverage of the Sandy Hook shooting in our house: no TV, no radio, no newspaper. She hadn’t overheard a conversation.
Did she have a fever-induced nightmare? Did she absorb my worries, sleeping so close to me all night? Was she attuned to something spiritual hovering in the air? Or was she thinking of the kind of shot she gets from the doctor?
I don’t know.
But a seed of worry had been planted in her head. I tried to talk with her about it without confusing her thoughts with my own. I tried to listen to what she was expressing, instead of assuming it was what I was thinking. I am not sure I handled the conversation well. But since then I've read the Motherlode post, which offers concrete advice on, among other things, how not to talk about Sandy Hook.
How about you? Did you speak with your kids? Did they come to you with questions? What are your thoughts for tomorrow and the road ahead?