Sunday, December 16, 2012

Free to Be You and Me

Yesterday I was inwardly despondent over the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  These children were Katie's age.  That could have been my baby.  But outwardly I had to keep my cool.  My child needs me now.  Katie's been home sick from school all week with a nasty respiratory virus, so she's been shielded from any news she might have picked up on the playground.  I had read about the killings online earlier in the morning while Katie slept on the couch, blissfully unaware. 

By afternoon I needed to take a break from my unpaid nursing job taking care of my sick kiddo.  Distracted by the tragedy mulling over in my head, I desperately needed a private cry, away from Katie, so she wouldn't start grilling me with questions I wasn't ready to answer.*  

"I'm going to take a little break," I announced, standing over her on the couch.  "What DVD would you like me to put in?"

"How about Free to Be You and Me?" she said.

"What?  You've already watched that DVD two times in the last two days."  I was surprised.  She's mostly gotten over that phase of wanting to watch movies over and over and over again and rejecting anything new.

"That's OK.  I love it.  It makes me feel happy."

I smiled.  For real.  Not just trying to stay strong for my child.  My child is strong.  At that moment I realized the world is not going to end and it's not only full of killers and we will get through this horrible tragedy.  My sweet, innocent child loves the same Kumbaya crap I loved as a child.  We will make this world a better place.

After pushing play, I sat down, forgetting my grown-up cry break, and began singing along:

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live
In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me


I got all the way to this part before I choked back tears:

Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman


I had to quit singing along.

Bullshit childish fantasy.  

But I sat there anyway and watched it with her, again, and let Katie think her mommy's just a softie crying happy tears for an old video she loved as a child.


***

*For tips on how to talk to your kids about this horrible tragedy, check out these links:


http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/agebyage.html

http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/talking.html

http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/npr/167269582/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-the-conn-shootings

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/family/2012/12/elementary_school_shooting_how_to_talk_to_your_kids_about_the_connecticut.html

And my favorite advice, from Mr. Rogers:



photo source: Facebook

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world. -- Mr. Rogers

When Katie finds out and starts asking questions about this horrific event, I've got a list of heroes lined up to talk about, people like first-grade teacher Victoria Soto and all the other helpers at the school who saved lives.  They made this world a better place in the midst of such tragedy.  That's what I will focus on with my child.  But until Katie asks me about it, I'm going to keep her blissfully unaware.