Rest Assured: When Kids Ask the Tough Questions

Updated: Jul 22, 2021


Last night I tucked my 8-year-old into bed assuring her that she was safe, when in truth I had no idea if she really was. The world hadn’t felt safe for a while, but yesterday was different. I lived through 9/11, barely hanging on when I saw the second plane hit. I watched the smoke rise across the river from where I lived. It’s that sinking feeling that yesterday instantly brought back. And so, I lied to her, told her she had nothing to worry about, when all I do is worry. How do I explain an unfamiliar world to her without her losing faith in it all? The questions came and I answered them the way I wanted her to hear, without having the proof to back it up. I now imagine explaining Santa and the Easter Bunny away to be a breeze compared to last night. “Why were they so angry?” her voice lower than usual. A sense of fear that “they” may hear her and come storming into our house. “They didn’t get their way and didn't know how to handle it.” It’s true, I guess, but it didn’t feel like enough. “Some people,” I started again, and again lost my words. I haven’t had to put such a strange a feeling into words for a child before, and so I looked around the room searching for them. “I promise I won’t let anything bad happen to you,” this was the only thing I knew for sure. I wouldn’t go out without a fight. I wouldn’t back down. I then thought about all the confusing images now a part of our children's reality. How do they process such hate so close to home? How do we allow them to grieve when we weren't shown the way? I was tested, as I often am as a parent, and I can’t be sure I passed. It’s unsettling and hard to look hopeful when a child can read our faces. “Why do you look sad?” I didn’t think she could see my expression in the dark room. But kids are funny that way, they see everything we try to hide. “I don’t know,” I answered, again searching around the room for the right words. “Sometimes we just get confused, and today is that kind of day.” I let her sleep in my bed, not knowing if it was more for her comfort or mine; hoping that in the morning, the story would get better. This could not be a lasting chapter in the fairytale I have so delicately crafted for her.

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