I cradled my iPhone in the palm of my hand. My eyes scanned the headline: “deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history”. My breath lost its way for a moment. Then, as most moms would do, I tucked away my feelings and turned to my sons.
“Mama, what is it? What's wrong?” my 6-year-old asked me.
So much for tucking away my feelings.
“Why do you ask me that, sweetheart?”
“Your face looks scared…” he noted spot on.
I went over to him and knelt down to look at him.
“Your ability to read people is a gift. I am so amazed by you.” My boy is often labeled as “overly sensitive” and “explosive” because he feels the world around him.
This is another example of why we need to elevate and celebrate these unique and often extreme qualities.
“What happened?” he persisted.
Why Telling the Truth to Our Kids Needs to Happen
I glanced over my shoulder to my husband. He nodded giving me the go-ahead to speak the truth to our young son.
“A man hurt a lot of people.”
I want to be detailed but not too detailed.
I want to be succinct by not too brief to leave questions and uncertainty.
“You mean he threw a bomb?”
“Basically. He had many guns and used them to hurt people at a concert. So, there were a lot of people in a small space. There was no place for them to run.”
Did I say too much? I worried.
“He just ran into the crowd and shot them? Why didn't anyone stop him?” His eyes glared at me desperately trying to understand my words.
I took a deep breath, put my arms on his shoulders, and looked him straight in the eyes, “This man, he was not a good man and he lacked courage. He was weak. He shot these people from a window high up so there was little anyone could do until the police were able to help. A lot happened quickly and the police did the best they could…”
How Can We Teach Our Kids that Taking the Difficult Path Will Make Them Stronger?
He stared at me. I could see his mind trying to process all of this information.
“If I was there, I would have tried to protect people.” His comment floored me.
You see, I worry that in 2017 – a time where kids seem to have it all and working hard takes a back burner – my kids will grow up to be weak. I want them to take a hard road so they become stronger. I encourage them to avoid taking the easy path because that will make them weak.
Then this happens…and I am reassured that I am raising a warrior kid.
My eyes filled with tears. He recognized the fact that the ordinary people need to act as warriors, need to be the heroes, and need to help each other.
“When I grow up, I am going to make it so bad people can't have guns. Why did they let him have a gun?” That was a big statement for a mother to take in.
All these questions. My mind was spinning so I decided to speak with my body. I held him tightly and whispered to him, “You're such a good person. You have such a big heart. I will always protect you. Will you always protect me?”
“For now though the best you can do is to be kind and to be good. So, at school today, be the guy that makes the hard choices. Maybe one of your classmates is having a tough day and you can say something to lift his spirits? Or maybe one of your classmates is getting picked on and you can step in and be his friend?”
“I bet my teachers will be sad about this bad guy. Maybe I can help them, too.”
Crap, this kid. Gets me every single time.
It is obvious that these incidents will continue to happen. Unfortunately, in a country going through a lot of transition, there will be confusion, and, likely, there will be more violence.
The best we can do as the adults in our kids' lives, no matter if we're in the classroom or at home, is to prepare for the questions. Be as proactive as possible. Anticipate the questions. Don't ignore the reality, don't run in the other direction. Instead, be prepared.
P.S. The Way of the Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink is a great way to introduce ideas about working hard and being strong to kids.