Thursday, January 31, 2008

I talk to my child about bad things that happen

Many people think that isn't right. I want my daughter to have a realistic and not idealistic view of the world. Yes, I do shelter her quite a bit from violent content in the media. I try to find educational, wholesome entertainment alternatives for the most part. Still, I don't want her to be blindsided by "real life" when it happens. Often, I give her a general idea of a situation and then give her details when she asks for them. Tonight was a perfect example.

At 7 pm, I was alerted that a man I know had commited a crime and was in our neighborhood. I told her that a home's window had been broken and that it was possible that the family involved might need a warm, safe place to sleep tonight and I had offered them shelter. We locked the doors and covered the windows.

She kept opening the curtains, though, and I was losing patience. So then, I gave her a little more information - that the window was broken by a "bad guy" and that he was still in the neighborhood so I didn't want him to notice us home and do the same thing and that I wanted to keep us safe, but it was a little scary. She said she was a little scared and I re-assured her that it is okay to be scared and that fear is a good thing - a way our body helps us protect ourselves from trouble. I told her that I was pretty sure that we were safe, but I didn't want to take any chances.

Later, I checked in with the neighbor whose window was broken. The perpetrator had turned himself in. I felt safer and was ready to talk to her some more about what was going on. I told her that this man that we know had just surrendered to the police because he was the guy that smashed in the window. She had lots of questions like "what did he use?" to which I answered "his head" and "why would he do that?" and I told her that he is (1) mentally ill and (2) not taking his medication for his illenssand (3) has been using drugs and beer. I also told her that he has no home because he has lost all his privileges at his parents house and his grandmother's house. That he is cold, and hungry, and his brain is not thinking right. I told her that he is very scared and with all the bad choices he's been making it isn't safe to be around him again until he changes his life around.

She remarked about how handsome he is and how "wow mom, you're right - bad guys are sometimes the cute ones!" which is a big recurring theme for me. She asked if bad guys can be good sometimes and I said that I think all people have good and bad in them, but some people don't have (or don't use) the self-control to sort out the bad impulses and push them down. She asked if he might be well and good again. I told her I sure hope so. She asked if we were still friends with him. I told him that I still love him in my heart and I don't want bad things to happen to him, but that it is probably not safe to be with him and so we won't be spending any time together. She cried a little, then I told her she could stay up late and watch "Fifth Grader" with grandma. She cuddled in and my mom held her and re-assured her also. They had fun watching the show and are both asleep in their own beds now.

For now, I feel that some life lessons may have sunk into her six-year-old mind. Who knows how she will interpret it later. I may find out that she tells her teacher "Cute boys are bad men who break windows with drugs" or something wonky like that.


Mrs. Chili said...

I think it's important to tell our kids all the truth they can process. Going out into the world thinking that everyone is kind and sweet and has your best interests at heart is dangerous, and any parent who does that to their kid ought to have their parental rights revoked.

I don't let the girls watch horror movies or violent t.v. shows, but we DO talk about some of the bad things that can happen in the world. They know, at 8 and 10, what rape is. They understand that it's important to stay in groups because sometimes, people steal children. They know who "safe" adults are.

It's a fine balance between healthy caution and outright paranoia. None of us gets it JUST right - the best we can do is the best we can do.

Anonymous said...

I know who it's about and I don't want you talking about him like that!!!!!!

Lanie Painie said...

1. I think you're missing the point of the post. It is intended to induce readers to consider whether or not, and on what level, parents should discuss dramatic events with their growing children. ie, Do we shelter kids too much from reality, or not enough?

2. There is nothing derogatory in what I have said about the "perp," only the facts as I related them to my daughter and a synopsis of the conversation that followed.

The Grammar Snob said...

I think you're doing the right's not always the easy thing, but it is the right thing.

Cari said...

As a wise woman once said, you have the right to screw up your kids as you see fit and I have the right to screw up mine as I see fit. So carry on :)