This entry was originally posted immediately after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. With recent events at other schools, namely the Santa Fe, TX high school shooting which hits close to home to me and many of my family and friends, I found the timing right to repost this piece.
Original posting date: December 15, 2012
Like many parents across this country last night I lay awake in bed, tired but unable to sleep, the thoughts of the horrors of the day keeping me awake. ”What are those parents doing right now? Are they out of tears, collapsed in exhaustion?” I wondered. ”And the parents of the survivors, how are they keeping it together in front of their shaken children?”
In a tragic moment this sick sub-human being took away not only precious, innocent lives, but brought a heavy cloud upon everyone’s holiday season. I found out the news as I set up a booth for my book in a quiet holiday boutique at a local church. In a moment, darkness descended. The boutique seemed unnecessary. The incredible and massive Living Nativity being prepped outside seemed excessive. My book seemed minuscule and insignificant. The only place I wanted to be at that moment was with my children, holding them tight and gathering way more comfort from them than I was able to provide in return.
I spoke with Jackie, the sweet woman in the booth next to me, and our eyes welled up as we sat in disbelief and anger and utter sadness. I said “You know, we tell our kids all the time that there are no monsters, no excessively evil villain or big bad wolf like they see in a cartoon or Disney flick or book." And yet, there he was… terrorizing those children in their last moments and leaving nightmares scattered across millions of bedrooms. Of course, we (and our son’s karate sensei) talk about strangers and how to deal with the creepy person trying to get close to you, but this sort of monster is not in my parent or dojo playbook.
Our oldest child is just short of 5 years old, young enough to be sheltered from this event and not hear about it through the usual channels. But last night I thought about how we would explain this to our child. Suppose he was 6 or 7 or older. He’s going to hear about it. One way or another he’s going to get some version of this tragic story and become aware of this existing violence. Then the questions will follow: Why was the man so angry? Why did God let this happen? Does this happen everywhere? When will it happen again? Will it happen to me?
So my question to you parents, past and present, how did you or would you explain something like this to a child? How do you tell them that monsters do exist?