December 17, 2012

A Conversation I Never Wanted To Have

It was the hardest conversation ever.

I don't want to make you sad or scare you or do anything to make you feel less safe but I have to talk to you about something. A horrible thing happened on Friday. I need to tell you about it now because I want you to hear what happened from me. Some kids might talk about it at school on Monday so I want you to know what they're talking about. And you might see policemen around your school I want you to know why.

On Friday, a person - a guy who had something wrong with him - went into an elementary school with guns and he shot people. He killed a lot of people and a lot of them were kids. The teachers were heroes. They did their best to protect the kids, pulling them out of the halls and bringing them into their classrooms to hide but some of those heroes were killed too. There's really no good explanation why someone would do something like this but there are a lot of kids who will never go home to their moms and dads.

School should be someplace wonderful. It should be a place where you go to have fun, be with your friends and learn. It should never be a place you're scared of going. Your mom and I are on this earth to protect you. We will never let anything bad happen to you. And if I have to stand out front of your school with a baseball bat to make sure you're never afraid, I'll quit my job and that's exactly what I'll do.

I wish I didn't have to talk to you about this. Seven year olds shouldn't ever have to worry about things like this and fathers of seven year olds should never have to have this conversation. But I do, because I want you to hear this from me, I want you to know you're safe, and I want you to know that I'll always do everything I can to protect you. And you know that I am always honest with you, that I always tell you the truth because I know you are smart and mature and capable of more than I'd ever imagine.


It was the hardest conversation ever. During it, I fought back tears that I know Mia saw. She asked questions to which I had no answers, trying to somehow rationalize what she'd heard the same way I'd tried to rationalize it 48 hours earlier. I'll be years - perhaps forever - before any of us have answers.

After this, my daughter sat at our kitchen table drawing a line of kids all saying something about how great school was. With their parents behind them saying the same thing. She wants to mail it to Connecticut hoping that maybe, having seen it, some kids might feel safer.

Me, I just went someplace quiet and sobbed.

Posted by Chris at December 17, 2012 8:06 AM
Comments

you are a beautiful father.

Posted by: Dawn at December 17, 2012 8:18 AM

We had to have the same conversation with our 7 year old daughter this weekend...we avoided all news (and in a house with a news junkie (my husband), that was not easy) all weekend. But knew we couldn't keep her from knowing what had happened, so we discussed it while on our trip to get a christmas tree. She had some questions about it last night before bed, because she had seen a brief bit about it while we were watching football. She was a little weepy, as I have been ever since Friday. I completely understand your need to hide and sob. I need to as well. It is just plain awful what happened. I don't comprehend. We should not have to explain this to our children.

Posted by: cyndy at December 17, 2012 9:06 AM

Children truly are the best of us. They adapt so much better than we older folk. You send that drawing to CT, Chris. Do it. If it makes ONE PERSON feel less awful for even a nano-second it's worth it.

Posted by: NotAMeanGirl at December 17, 2012 9:48 AM

"And if I have to stand out front of your school with a baseball bat to make sure you're never afraid, I'll quit my job and that's exactly what I'll do."

Exactly.

And her picture? Beautiful. Send it. Someone will love it.

Posted by: Kim at December 17, 2012 11:08 AM

We had a conversation Saturday morning with our 9 and 7 year old. No details other than there was a big news story because kids died when a crazy person shot them at school. We asked them to not believe everything they hear, and to ask us questions when they have them and we would tell them the truth. We told them they are safe, and didn't dwell on it.

That night, I gave in and watched one hour of news just to be informed. I thought I could just cry it out during that hour and I'd feel better but I don't. Yesterday and today hasn't been much better.

Plainly put, this is the most evil thing that can happen and I just can't seem to bury the emotion that comes with it.

Posted by: Brad at December 17, 2012 11:47 AM

The fear parents live with nowadays is unimaginable. I'm glad my kids are grown. I'm glad I raised them right, so I know that my daughter is handling this with my two grandchildren - the eldest is 6 years old - in just the right way. I fear for my grandchildren, but trust my daughter to do what she needs to do, whatever that may be. Parenting - and merely growing up, for God's sake - shouldn't be this scary. There are no easy answers and there are no quick fixes.

Posted by: Julee at December 17, 2012 12:05 PM

You are a great dad. It's ok not to have answers sometimes.

Posted by: James Proffitt at December 17, 2012 12:41 PM

That first paragraph? That's exactly how I told my 6-1/2 year old. And we waited until yesterday to talk to him because any earlier I would have cried, but yesterday I felt I could hold it together. It is the last thing I ever thought I would have to talk to my son about, and I hope to never have that conversation with my daughter who is only 16 months old. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Bea at December 17, 2012 1:17 PM

lola is 5 and muller is 3. all i told them is that in knew about some children that were very sad because they have a hard life and we were going to draw some pictures for them to cheer them up. lola drew kids holding hands with smiles on their faces and rainbows and hearts and WE LOVE YOU SANDY HOOK in all caps. i didn't really think it was necessary to tell lola, but if she had been a little older i might have.
luckily, friday was our last day of school before christmas break and i am so relieved.

Posted by: kati at December 17, 2012 1:46 PM

You are brave and strong to have such a conversation. Being open and honest with kids is imperative and you have shown such strength with being so beautifully open with your kids. I have cried for those children (little more than babies), and those wonderful teachers, and I look at my own two daughters and know I would be inconsolable if something should happen to them - especially so senselessly.

Please please please - let no more innocents die. Rally to your politicians: do something about the guns and about the state of mental health and health services. Escalating security in schools does not solve the problem, it just makes it acceptable.

Posted by: Cathy at December 17, 2012 5:17 PM

You are a wonderful, beautiful father Chris. There are no answers and I firmly believe that kids would rather have an honest, "I don't know the answer to that" than a lie or a half truth. I spent a lot of my time telling kids the truth- that I didn't understand or have a reason why this had happened. I think you should send Mia's picture... letting the people of Newtown know that this beautiful little girl is thinking of their pain will touch them.

I spent quite a bit of time the last few days finding someplace quiet to cry. What has happened is absolutely unthinkable and unimaginable and heartbreaking.

Posted by: Kate M at December 17, 2012 5:40 PM

You are a wonderful, beautiful father Chris. There are no answers and I firmly believe that kids would rather have an honest, "I don't know the answer to that" than a lie or a half truth. I spent a lot of my time telling kids the truth- that I didn't understand or have a reason why this had happened. I think you should send Mia's picture... letting the people of Newtown know that this beautiful little girl is thinking of their pain will touch them.

I spent quite a bit of time the last few days finding someplace quiet to cry. What has happened is absolutely unthinkable and unimaginable and heartbreaking.

Posted by: Kate M at December 17, 2012 5:40 PM

I don't know how I would have a conversation like that with my son when he was young. I hug him extra hard everyday now. It's unthinkable and I see their beautiful little faces and can't help but think of my son at age 6 and my nieces and nephew at that age.
If you would like to send Mia's picture it can be sent to:
Messages of Condolence for Newtown
P.O. Box 3700
Newtown CT 06470

The post office set it up for mailings.

Posted by: NancyB at December 18, 2012 10:24 AM

I had a very similar convo with my 6yo son on Sunday night b/c I knew the teachers would be speaking of it on Monday. We talked and they talked and then we talked again and sometime in the middle of the conversation I just thought how surreal this is, explaining to my six year old how to be safe just in case a sick person with a gun comes to his school looking to shoot up a room full of first graders. My heart breaks over this. He keeps wanting to know more in order to process it so, as the news talks about the funerals each day, we talk about those children. Unfathomable.

Posted by: rebecca at December 18, 2012 12:26 PM

Love this. You are amazing. Your kids are very lucky to have you.

Posted by: Nicole at December 19, 2012 10:41 AM


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