Last week was some kind of triple-witching hour for public mourning. We pulled into a McDonald's parking lot (see: mother, bad) last Sunday and she noticed the flag. "Why is that flag so low?"
"Well, when they fly a flag low like that, it's because something sad happened."
How do you explain terrorism to a 6-year-old? How do you tell her that people halfway across the world are angry at her country and they express their anger by killing innocent people? And that they believe this is justified because none of us are really innocent? That they are willing to die as long as it means they can take some of us with them? (And that one reason they're so willing to die is because they'll have a dozen dead virgins waiting in the afterlife to give them a hero's reward... I'm sorry, but this obsession with deflowering virgins is almost as disturbing as anything else going on over there.) How do you explain hurricanes? And people left to drown just because it was too inconvenient to get them out before the storm hit? How do you explain cancer? How do you explain all these bad things to a 6-year-old without freaking her out? A 6-year-old who is already worried her house is going to burn down and take all her toys with it?
I don’t know why she became obsessed with fire. I try very hard – very, very hard – not to transmit my fears to her (you should have heard how cheerful I was about fleeing a potential tornado this week! Isn’t this exciting! Oooh, look at the pretty lightning!). And fire isn’t one of my fears. It’s one we do talk about, because it’s one she needs to be able to handle on her own (i.e., if it happens in the middle of the night.)
How did we handle it? We said we’d talk about it after lunch, hoping that a playground and a new Tinker Bell Happy Meal toy would distract her from the things she just doesn’t need to know yet. And it did. This time.