“No, no, Mama, go back. I want to see that rainbow heart again. Why is it broken?”
This was not the conversation I’d planned on having as I casually scrolled through my Instagram feed in a dirty airport-bound taxicab. But there I was, deciding in that Little Tree-reeking backseat whether my almost-five year-old could handle hearing about the massacre in Orlando.
I could have easily lied. “The artist isn’t finished coloring yet!” Or “A Care Bear must be sad!” Or “It’s a puzzle! How would you put it back together?”
Instead, I said to her: “I love that you ask so many questions. It’s one of my favorite things about you. (It really is.) But sometimes, you ask me questions I’m not sure I should answer. I don’t want to scare you or make you sad.”
“I can handle it, Mom.”
It’s was one of those gut-check moments all parents have, when you have to trust your knowledge of your child and make a call. Was this an opportunity to educate her or just plain scare her? It depends on the kid. I don’t know your kid, but I know mine. She might only be four, but she is thoughtful, wise, emotionally aware, and misses NOTHING. She can handle this.
So I told her. She already knew what guns were (though she calls them blasters, because “Star Wars”), and she has enough friends with two mommies that it has never seemed a remarkable arrangement to her. But hatred of that magnitude, that was something my beautiful, wide-eyed child knew nothing about. She listened with patience and responded as I hoped she would when I asked whether she thought hurting mommies who love mommies and daddies who love daddies was okay.
The cab driver, who’d apparently been listening this whole time, shared aloud that it might not “be right” to teach my child about people who are gay, as if that was the most troubling part of the story. I pretended I didn’t hear him, opting not to piss off my ride in the middle of Queens. But boy, did I want to.
I am bereft to live in a world where having these conversations with my child is necessary. But here we are. I am proud of my daughter for being so curious and brave and compassionate. I am reassured that my husband’s and my decision to always speak to our children honestly was the right choice for our family. I am grateful that the revelation of this hateful massacre has not led to nightmares or (TBD) a call from a troubled preschool teacher.
My daughter’s follow-up question was, if you know my tiny scientist, a perfectly-Charlotte response: “What does a gunshot wound LOOK LIKE?” I told her to save that one for medical school.