When the horrible shooting occurred in Newtown last month, my husband and I decided that we weren't going to say anything to our son about what had happened. He knew nothing about it, and we felt that it would serve no purpose to bring it up. We decided that if he brought up the event we would try to answer his questions, but other than that we would just let him stay blissfully ignorant of the whole thing.
But Zane is not the blissfully ignorant type, and that is a double edged sword.
"Mama, what happens when someone starts pewing at you?" My years of looking at internet memes came in handy; I remembered that 'pew' was the sound made when people were pretending to shoot guns. I was glad that I remembered, but then the weight of what Zane asked hit me right in the gut. I had to sit down. We have not ever purchased toy guns for Zane, but he knows the index
finger method of imitating a gun, and he will sometimes run through the
house tormenting the cats with it. Harmless fun, we thought.
"Are you asking me what happens when someone starts shooting at you?" I needed to clarify. I didn't want to be emotional about this; I wanted to be calm and rational and reasonable. The exact opposite of how I really felt.
"Why are you asking me that? Did someone say something to you?" My mind was racing. Larry and I only spoke about Newtown when we were alone. Did someone say something at school? Did his classmates say anything? We hadn't received any letter about this!
Zane launched into a long, complex story which involved wargs and ninjas at recess with Shelob the spider. This let me know that it was a peer who probably said something he heard about the shootings. I've seen those five year old boys gathered in the corner, comparing their Angry Birds Star Wars shirts; I could just imagine them congregating on the playground. Zane was very into his narrative, and I had started to hope that he had forgotten his question.
No such luck.
"Mama, what if someone pews me?" he asked. "Will I die?"
I had a mini-crisis moment as I contemplated the unthinkable happening to my only child, the light of my heart. I had to take his question seriously.
"If someone shoots you, it will hurt very badly," I said. "so if someone points a gun at you, I want you to run away from them as fast as you can."
I know that a number of schools teach the kids to hide, and that is a good plan. Sometimes. However, since a moving target is harder to hit, and since it makes sense to put as much distance between yourself and a gun as possible, I felt that my recommendation was the simplest and most age appropriate. I could have told him to do what his teacher told him, but what if he's not at school?
Zane thought about that for a minute. Then he put his arms around me and gave me a kiss.
"Okay, Mama. I will run right home to you."
"That sounds like a plan, son." I breathed a sigh of relief as my son went back to his rousing game of "Cave Troll vs. Giant Frog of Doom". I had a couple of glasses of wine later, after he went to bed.
I don't want my child to be scared to be in the world. I want him out
there exploring and getting his hands dirty and having fun and just
being a kid. But the world can be a scary place, and there may be a
time when he will be confronted with a scary situation. I want him to
be safe. I want him to be prepared, as much as he can be. Having a plan, even one as simple as running away, may help my child feel safer. He can make a choice, and have a little control. Sometimes, that can make a difference.