This morning, as we snuggled in my bed stealing a few minutes before the morning rush, Anders asked when the videos from Santa Claus were going to arrive. At 10 years old, we have reached the point when I wonder if he still believes in Santa.
This post was supposed to be a post about dragons, Santa Claus and an elf ornament that was transformed through a seven year old girl’s sheer force of will, and a bit of imagination, into an “elf on the shelf.”
This post was supposed to be about how I found myself comforting our 10 year old son when he realized, belatedly, that the dragon he saw at New Fantasyland wasn’t as real as he thought it was. And how, after some discussion, we determined it was the most real dragon either of us had seen. Real because we believed in it, and real because of “Disney magic.”
In this post I was going to describe how, during this most “magical” time of year, I am having a hard time figuring out how to encourage my children to hold onto their innocence, while still protecting them from the non-believers they will run into at school, on the bus, or in the neighborhood.
Today, one day after the school shooting in Connecticut that took the lives of so many adults and small children, those concerns seem so naive and a bit trivial.
That’s because today I don’t have to figure out how to tell my children they can believe in Santa, or the Elf, or dragons. Instead, I have to figure out a way to tell them about fear, death, and tragedy. I have to explain that bad things happen, and that being a child is no protection.
And no matter how we tell them the story of what happened in an elementary school just like theirs, how vague we are about the details, or how often we assure them they are safe, I know we are stealing a bit of their innocence.
Adding a little bit of darkness. Injecting a little bit of fear.
I know, because I feel the darkness creeping in on me. At the mall last night, following my children past crowds of shoppers, I smiled at everyone who made eye contact with me while contemplating escape routes and exit strategies. Sitting in our high school gymnasium today as my son played basketball and my daughter sipped hot cocoa from the snack shack, I eyed the exits and wondered which were locked, and which were not. And at the Dollar Store, I was distracted from browsing through the bins of wrapping paper by a rising sense of panic and desire to go home.
Go home. Lock the door. Never come out again.
But we can’t hide from the world. And we can’t avoid the truth.
Like many of you, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to handle a situation like this, and what to say to the children, including these simple guidelines from the Boston Children’s Museum. I just wish there was someone who could tell me how, after I tell them what happened, how I can give them a little of the magic back.
Good thing we have dragons. And Santa. And magical elves.