Earlier today I was listening to NPR in the car with my (almost) three year old daughter. I was only half-listening, really, also thinking about errands I needed to run, things I needed to do, and the rest of the usual mental clutter that usually streams though my mind. I was vaguely aware of the news report, a story about a 13 year old boy who was killed by a police officer
, and was thinking something along the lines of "gee, that's too bad" when my daughter asked from the back seat, "Mommy, who died?". I groaned inwardly to myself, not really wanting to have to explain this to her, but answered her question, saying "A boy died, a 13 year old boy". Emma then asked "Why did the boy die? What happened to him?" and I took a deep breath and answered "Well, a police officer shot him, because he thought the boy was dangerous". She responds "Why did the police officer think the boy was dangerous?" (Yes, my daughter talks like this) and I tried to explain about the car and the accident, and about how it all really was an accident and at that point, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. I felt sadness because I had to explain something as horrid as a police officer's life ending overreaction to my three year old, but also because the boy's death had finally become real for me, just as it was already real for my daughter.
Children are focus points, lenses, and perspective shifters all wrapped up in a energetic, creative, and sometimes maddening little bundle. I think people tend to focus on everything we have to put out to keep them safe and help them grow up well... but if we listen and pay attention, I think they have have just as much to give back in return.
So then I also wonder, do I stop listening to NPR in the car when she's there? Do I stop listening to the music I like because it sometimes has difficult themes? (no, I do not relish the idea of explaining some of Ani DiFranco's music to her) I could try to have her grow up in a bubble, unaware of everything in the world that isn't bright and happy. Or do I just go ahead and expose her and answer the questions as best I can? If I take this latter route, how do I make sure she doesn't feel crushed by the weight of everything that's wrong in the world?
I wouldn't give up being a mom for anything in the world, but egads this gets difficult sometimes...
* Into the Woods
, Stay with Me