Like most parents, I spent this past weekend trying to comprehend the tragic events that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. While it's impossible to make sense of a senseless situation, I kept at it, hoping to come up with some reasoning.
As a parent, I received a number of phone calls and emails from my kids' schools informing us about how to talk to our kids if we wanted to. They alerted us that the school's preparing teachers to handle any questions kids may have. Whether or not we wanted to tell our kids was entirely up to us.
What made the most sense to me was that if the kids were going to find out about it, it's better to come from their parents than from their classmates at school. We didn't say anything on Friday, as the news was still so raw.
Then Saturday came. My wife was at work and I was in the kitchen reading the newspaper, while the kids sat with me as they ate their breakfast. I just kept looking at them and thinking what it'd be like if it had been their school that was targeted. I thought how unbearable it would be to look at those empty chairs that used to be filled with such life. Such laughter. Such innocence.
I really thought about it. Should I tell them? My oldest son is 9 and should be able to handle it. My younger, however, is 7 and is the one who usually asks 19 million questions. Was I prepared for that? Could he handle the truth?
No one wants to destroy their kids' House of Innocence. But at some point, you have to make them aware that there are some incredibly evil people in the world. Sometimes bad things happen to very good people.
So I told them. I told them that something horrible happened. At a school in Connecticut, a very bad man did a very bad thing. He shot and killed a lot of people, some were teachers, and some were even kids.
I didn't mention ages or the number of people killed. I just wanted them to know the basic facts. They asked a few questions like, "When did it happen?" and "Why did the bad guy do that?"
I answered as best I could and told them to always feel free to come talk to us if they're ever scared, confused, or had any questions at all. They seemed satisfied with it and were a bit shocked and definitely sad to hear the news. Then they bounced back, went into the other room, and started playing together.
Yes, it's definitely tough watching your kids grow up and lose that innocence. But the alternative, as we saw in Sandy Hook Elementary last week, is infinitely worse.
Did you tell your kids about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting?
Photo via Bart Everson/Flickr