How to talk to your kids about tragedy. Answer: No freaking clue.
|photo: joshua lott for the nyt|
Since the girls had caught a few unfortunate moments of the CNN broadcast which I hurriedly snapped on with them in the room, I was obliged to address their questions. At first I said something vague to Thalia like, "well, somebody hurt somebody else very far away from here" but that answer was satisfactory only to Sage who happily resumed collecting seashells and game pieces in her plastic pumpkin tote.
Thalia wanted to know more: What happened? Why? Who did it? What does he look like? What was he thinking? How did he get a gun? Was he a bad guy?
Her net takeaway from our discussion: "Sometimes people hurt other people in the government because they don't like their rules, and that's not okay." She also knows that we will always do everything we can do in the world to keep her and Sage safe. And she knows that this is why it's very important to us that we pick good leaders, who also want to protect us and make the world better.
Of course there's a lot I didn't tell her. She doesn't know that Congresswoman Giffords is a mommy. She doesn't know that a 9 year-old girl died. She also doesn't know that I checked Sara Palin's Facebook page, the digital Trafalgar Square of our day where every nut gets a soapbox and a small crowd, and saw updates like this:
As I said on Twitter, regretfully there's no "report for being an asshole" button on Facebook.
Of course I am not a psychic and don't know for a fact that this guy was politically motivated any more than John Hinkley was. I also know that these events are not new to our history; there have been assassins and domestic terrorists and mentally unstable people with guns going back to Hamilton and Lincoln and Reagan and Oklahoma City. However having it all happen as a mom makes it somehow new and raw and extra ugly and extra anguish-inducing for me. Perhaps for you too?
Hell, I can't even watch SVU anymore. How am I supposed to deal with this?
Thalia was born a day before the 2005 London bombings. I remember lying in the hospital bed, cradling my scrawny little newborn, discussing with Nate how unfortunate it was to raise kids in a world where this kind of thing happens. I hadn't yet thought though how unfortunate it would be to have to talk about it to them. Or that one January day, nearly six years later, I would wake up worried that maybe I had said too much.
Or maybe, I hadn't said enough.