innocence

There is so much I want to tell R.

So much I want to tell her, but can’t. I don’t want to scare her.  Plus, she’s too young to understand. But I want her to know that she shouldn’t do this. That she can’t run out into the street in front of the house because this might happen. That she should always stay close to Mommy because people like this live in the world. That she can’t play outside alone because of this.

How do I keep her safe without taking away her innocence?

I started taking piano lessons when I was four years old. My teacher, Gayle, lived across the street from us. She had probably a dozen students, ranging in age from four to about 12. We had recitals at a local church twice a year, once at Christmas and once in the spring.

Jeanine was four years older than me, and I idolized her. She was pretty and friendly. She wore a maroon-colored dress to the Christmas recital in December 1982. And in February 1983, when I was six and she was ten, she was kidnapped, raped and murdered.

I don’t really remember my parents telling me what happened, but I assume that they did. I remember Gayle crying a lot. I remember seeing Jeanine’s parents on television. I remember never being left home alone. As the years went by, convictions were gained and overturned and new trials were ordered and pardons were granted and now, almost 25 years later, no one is paying for what he did to her.

When I was in sixth grade, I sat next to a boy named Shannon in Mr. Kallenbach’s math class. He had been held back once and was a year older than us. When May came around and we were all looking forward to going to middle school, Shannon went out to check the mail. He found a notice that he would be held back again. He waited until his mother was gone, then he shot himself in the head.

I remember the aftermath of this clearly. Since he lived in a neighborhood adjacent to mine, we knew within hours. They had counselors at school the next day. I remember crying out in the hallway outside Mrs. Doyle’s music class. I remember clutching my friends, feeling sad but not hysterical. My parents didn’t let me go to the funeral or visitation.

I suppose things like this are inevitable in any child’s life. I just wish I could protect R from it all. I wish she didn’t have to know that things like this happen. I wish, I wish, I wish. In the days after September 11, when Dave and I were newly engaged, I started to wonder why anyone would ever bring children into a world where something like that could happen. Where Darfur could happen. Where Rwanda could happen. Where Bosnia could happen.

I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe it’s to try to raise our children to do better, to be better. Maybe there’s no answer. Why did I decide to have children when just four years earlier I was certain I could not? I guess time dulls the horror. And what if everyone decided not to have children because bad things happen? That’s certainly not the answer.

But now we are left with explaining to our kids that bad things happen in this world, sometimes to good people and sometimes for no good reason and no fault of their own. I guess it’s all part of growing up.

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10 Responses to innocence

  1. Colleen says:

    All the more reason to make a conscious effort to highlihgt for our kids those rare moments of good that we hear about….even if they can be difficult to find in the news sometimes. Apparently, and unfortunately, crime and tragedy sell. Why is that? As a journalist, do you have a theory?

  2. Marlee says:

    Its a hard line to walk. There have been several things just this past year that we have had to talk with Noodle about that were very hard. I think you just have to sit them down, tell them like it is, let them ask questions, tell them you love them and wrap them up in a great big hug.

    This Mommy thing is so not easy, but I wouldn’t give it up for all the money in the world.

  3. mommymartin says:

    It’s hard and scary to think about, and even scarier to face. I do agree with Colleen though. For every bad thing you see in the news, a dozen good things have happened that nobody bothered to report. While you teach R the survival things that she’ll need to know, remind her that there are good people out there too. Hopefully it’ll be a while before you have to worry about it though.

  4. I think I would rather have a resilient child than an innocent child. R is going to have her own challenges. They may be as great as your childhood friends, or yours, or less than any of them. They will be her challenges. My hope is that she will get through them with the grace her mother always displays.

  5. Sometime I think the greatest challenge in life is enjoying a world that will never be void of horror and evil.

    Sometimes I hate myself for not doing more, giving more to the people who are changed–forever–by that evil.

    Sometimes I am so cluelessly sad as to what will become of all of us, as we can’t go on like this forever. Which side will win?

    And I imagine these thoughts are exponentially multiplied when you become a mother.

    I want so desperately to be one. And so far the trying hasn’t worked and the only silver lining is that I have more time to prepare myself for questions that don’t, and possibly never will, have answers.

  6. Vixen says:

    I am currently still seeking an island with no people on it. Of course, I have been looking for nearly 23 years. But if I find it? I will share it with you. Or a bubble. A magic bubble. That protects our kids magically.

  7. skiplovey says:

    Wow that’s such a tough one. There are so many dangers in the world but how do you communicate that to your kids while still maintaining a sense of innocence? I guess you let them know carefully and in age appropriate ways how to be careful and keep letting them know.

  8. luvmogo says:

    No way to avoid it. We explain in an age appropriate way and hope for the best. Kids are resilient it takes a lot to break them. Still… I have a hard time every time I leave Mogo at school. Not knowing what is happening in her day or who she talks to or what her life is like when I am not there. We have to trust that we give them the tools they need to survive in the real world. Sucks doesn’t it?

  9. Vixen says:

    You must be off having great fun for the holidays (I hope!!!). I wanted to wish you happy holidays and a blessed New Year.

    ((hugs))

  10. Vixen says:

    Hey, sweetie got your email. But I was wondering….ever going to post again???? We want to know what’s happenin’

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