Saturday night our neighborhood held its annual Christmas Crawl (and I squirmed awkwardly as our Jewish neighbors arrived. OY. How about we call it a Holiday Hop?) We hosted the cocktails and as our neighbors arrived, I gave an extra long hug to one in particular, a mom who is also an elementary school principal.

"Are you okay?" I whispered into her hair.

"Yes..... No," she said, and hugged me back.

We didn't talk about it in front of the children. Only the teenagers knew what happened in Newtown on Friday and we quickly informed them that we didn't want the little ones to overhear anything. The grown ups did manage to have a few hushed conversations about whether and how to talk to little kids about this horrendous event. There was some debate about whether they needed to know and whether they would eventually hear and wouldn't it be better if they heard about it from us?

I came down on the side of yes, it would be better if they heard it from us, but since my 6 year old still cries over children's cartoons and is scared of CANDLES, I didn't think she can handle hearing about a madman gunning down children her exact age as they sat at their school desks and I'd rather take the chance that she would never hear about it at all.

Meanwhile, as the adults were talking about it and not talking about it, Z was busy being thrilled. This was the first year that she was allowed to stay up for the whole evening's events. The thrill lasted until the main course, when became clear that what parents do at these events is actually pretty lame: a lot of standing around and talking over plates of food, food that has a LOT of green and/or black flecks in it.

So at the last house, when the grownups started to drink and chat in earnest, Z retreated to the basement to watch "Elf" with a bunch of the older kids. I went with her, because she is such a sensitive child and I didn't remember much about the movie except that I found it funny as an adult which meant that she might not be able to handle it.

I was right.

Her concern began five seconds in, when a baby is placed alone in a crib at an orphanage.

"Is he really an orphan? With NO Mommy or Daddy??"

When Will Farrell, ridiculously dressed and earnest-faced, begins his trek to find his father, who is on the naughty list and lives in New York, she started crying. SOBBING.

"But will he find his Daddy? And will he BE OKAY?!"

She could not handle "Elf." At all. We bowed out after Will Farrell sang a hilarious (if you're me) or awfully sad (if you're a sensitive, literal-minded 6 year old) song to his father, who thought this ridiculous looking man in front of him was a singing telegram.

"He just wants his Daddy to LOVE HIM," she sobbed into my shoulder. 

I tried to tell her that this was an actor, telling a made up story, not a real person having a real sad experience. But for Z, everything, even the silliest of cartoons and movies, is immediate, visceral, TRUE.

Yeah, I don't think she could handle the horrible true story of Newtown.

I can barely handle it myself.
Today she is at school. Sitting at her desk. Just like any other day.

Full of innocence.


Michelle said...

Oh Z. I was that kid. I sobbed at The Muppets Movie when Kermit is separated from everyone and couldn't handle The American Tale. I just want to give Z a hug. I remember feeling that way.

As for the shooting, I've learned after a few years how to shut down my emotions. This? I couldn't do. I cried at my desk and refused to believe the initial numbers when they were released. I kept saying, "It's gotta be a typo."

Anonymous said...

Oh, heavens. Your baby is frightened by Elf and I can't take that. Here's hoping that she has a sweet day and doesn't have a single thing to worry about.

("He just wants his Daddy to LOVE HIM" officially broke me.)

twisterfish said...

I think Z and I were separated at birth (though a few decades apart and OMG does that make you my mommy!?!??!?!?!!).

When I was that age there were terrible things happening in the world, and I knew nothing of them until I was a teen and learned about it at school. That is the way to do it. That age is NOT the age to handle such horror.

You are such a good mommy.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Michelle- YES! That same exact moment in the muppets movie had Zoe SOBBING last summer! "BUT WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO KERMIT! HE'S ALL ALONE!!!!"

CharlieSue- Thanks lady!

twisterfish- As you well know, this is also ME. I am this sensitive too and always have been. I hear some pressure from some folks about how I'm perpetuating her sensitivity by sheltering her so much. I disagree (obviously!) I feel I am only responding to what she's telling me. She clearly can't handle it. END OF STORY.

grammalouie said...


You two are the best parents Z could ever have.


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