I’ve been putting off having The Conversation since Friday. Here I’d been thinking that it’d be so hard to the kids someday about sex or drugs, Internet predators or alcohol. Those topics now seem like banter in comparison to Friday’s events.
I read the advice. Stay calm. Be straightforward and simple. Try not to be too emotional. Answer questions matter-of factly.
Just when I thought I had the courage to tell my kids about Friday’s events last night, I decided to give them one last night of innocence. So I waited until this morning. I knew I had to tell them, not because I wanted to, not because it was my instinct, but because all of the experts have told me to. And I know that they are right. For children, hearing terrible news as a rumor on a bus is way more terrifying than hearing it in the loving arms of their parents.
Dave and I sat down with the kids after breakfast and suddenly I was speechless. How were we supposed to keep things simple when we’ve never come across a topic so complicated? Religious leaders, mental health professionals, the smartest people in the world have no words and no solutions. So what could we possibly do to “keep it simple?”
And, when I get nervous or confused, I talk more, not less. I babble. This was not a time for babbling, so I was silent. While I was pausing a long pause, Dave jumped right in.
To be honest, I can’t remember what he said. I was too inwardly emotional (not what I was supposed to do) at the time to remember things clearly now. All I know is that he spoke to them in the calmest, most straightforward, simple way you could ever know. He did not get too emotional. He did not veer off track. He told them facts. He reassured them without making impossible promises. I saw our daughter’s eyes open wide and scared and then relax by the end. Daddy had made her feel safe. I saw our son pay close attention at the news and then say that he’d throw pizza at a ghost if one came to his school. He didn’t quite understand, but he doesn’t quite need to. Not now. Daddy had told him what he needed to know.
I felt like the Dalai Lama himself, or perhaps Mr. Rogers, had just sat down and told our kids about Friday. And this same individual had just made me feel safer, too.