I woke up this morning to emails saddened by the tragic news from Colorado. Opened up CNN on my phone and saw the headlines: Gunman Kills 12 at Batman Movie.
The alarm went off and my kids woke up. Time to get ready for camp. While making breakfast, I peeked at my computer for updates, not wanting to put the TV on and expose my kids to the tragedy. Got in the car to drive to camp.
“Can you put the radio on?” Just like every morning, the same request.
Turned to our favorite radio station, and Ryan Seacrest was chatting with a woman about what happened. I quickly switched to another station, and same news. Put the radio off. My kids whined.
I thought for a minute. I need to explain to them what happened. They will likely hear about it from others today at camp. They should hear about it from me. At 8 and 10 years old, they are old enough.
And so, it began. ”Girls, I need to tell you about something that happened today.” Their wide eyes looked at me from the back seat.
“You may hear about something very tragic that happened today. A man, who was obviously not well, shot and killed people today.” It seemed to register with Tara, my elder immediately, who was very quiet. Slowly, I explained the situation to them. Leela asked if it was like 9/11 – her other association with major tragedy.
Tara wanted to know more details. Where did it happen? Did I tell them at the movie theater? I paused, before I told them the truth. And then, I actually began to tell them that if ever they are somewhere and feel uncomfortable, if a person is acting strange, I want them to get out of that place. And if anything scary starts to happen, they need to hide. As I said these words, I panicked – am I doing the right thing?
Talking to children about things that we cannot even reconcile with ourselves is uncomfortable, intimidating and scary. But as I struggled with my words, I felt that it was so important that they heard from me what happened. How much more confusing for them would it be to hear from others.
And I realized that in the end my kids weren’t as traumatized as I thought they would be. I was proud actually to see how mature they were. I realized that in empowering them with my trust, in sharing my own confusion, we were more connected. They embraced the news with sadness and a bit of confusion, but they were ready to go to camp and go on with their day.
Have you talked to your kids about the tragedy of the Aurora shooting? If so, how? Please share your story so we can learn from each other in this confusing time.