We’re trying to fight the media-oric power of Santa’s publicity machine and teach Laylee and Magoo that Christmas is actually a religious holiday with fun attached as a festive bonus. Some days we win and sometimes the kids get all “Manger, what? Maybe I’ll care if you tell me it was full of liquid sugar.”
So tonight for family night I asked Laylee to tell us all the Christmas Story minus the reindeer, elves and abominable snow people. She asked me for a refresher and using the Little People as props, I took her through the basics.
When we got to the sinister part where Herod told the wise guys to come and tell him when they’d found Jesus because he wanted to worship him too, Laylee went into full panic mode. “I don’t like this part. I hate this story. He wanted to hurt the baby! I don’t like this part. I don’t want to tell it.”
She completely lost control and started shaking and bawling. Holding her in my arms trying to comfort her fear, I told her it was okay because he didn’t get to harm the baby. God protected Jesus and told the wise men what Herod had up his sleeve. She didn’t care if the baby got hurt or not. It was enough to know that someone was evil enough to want to do it. It was too scary.
We’ve talked about this story a bazillion times before and she’s never been bothered by it. When we get to the Herod part, she usually flinches, gives little smile and shakes with pretend fear and a look that says, “Phew! That was close.”
What was different today?
Adult things. I’ve been talking about hairy scary adult things for days, flooding, sadness, homelessness, despair, destruction, death and loss. To her I explained the disaster in a way a 4-year-old could understand. I gave her the Bambi version. “Bambi. Your mother can’t be with you anymore.”
Then I proceeded to watch news footage, talk on the phone with friends and family and cry about what I’d seen. “Bambi. Your mother can’t be with you anymore.
“Hey Thumper, don’t tell Bambi that his mom was brutally murdered by a faceless thug with a shotgun. They’re everywhere these days. It makes me cry just thinking about it. Bambi will likely be the next to go but don’t tell him. It may stress him out.
“Like I told you B, your mom’s gone on a long vacation but everything is juuuust peachy.”
I got her calmed down with sugar cookies, something I never thought I’d hear myself say, and I now pledge to be more protective of her innocence. She’s a baby in a world that wants her to grow up way too fast and she’s not deaf and I am not equipped with a soundproof telephone booth in which to cry and muse about the horrors and tragedies of this world in her presence.
She seemed to bounce back quickly, although her mental state is altered to the point that she’s now convinced she’s a feline and will only answer to sentences that begin with the word “Meow.” But then I’m not sure that particular disorder has anything to do with me, floods or evil biblical kings. She may just be four.
Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck says
Also, at age 4, she is probably old enough to comprehend that WHAT Herod wanted to do was evil. Before, she may not have been old enough to get it. Its so much easier when they’re little and all you have to really say is that its Baby Jesus’ birthday, and that is a good explanation. Growing up is hard.
Sarah @ Ordinary Days says
Don’t you wish those telephone booths existed? If you can find one, let me know, k?
Penelope Anne says
My first thought was where did you get a set of Biblical Little people? I have only seen the Noah ones….My 11yo collects them.
Trust me it is hard to tell them the hard reality of life whether they are 4 or 14, we just do it. She will get through this too, and you will always be a better mom for not lying to her.
Farm Wife says
I had similar problems after Katrina with BabyGirl. I think she was 4 then as well. It didn’t occur to me that she was listening to what I was saying on the phone & watching on TV. When Hurricane Rita was bearing down on Texas, she got very concerned. My watching hours of CNN didn’t help (especially when she saw families trapped on the interstate trying to get out of Houston).
She wanted to pray for the people in the path of the storm, so we asked God to take care of them. That was all she needed to hear. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing left to worry about it. We gave it to God & he’d take care of it all.
That’s what they mean when they talk about the faith of a child. They have such sensitive hearts. God bless Laylee.
Two weeks before Karenna’s due-date, I fell in the parking lot of our local car wash — I rolled over and landed on my belly. I didn’t have anyone to take Mare (my then-three year-old) so she came with me to Labor and Delivery. Cute Husband got there and between us we made a great game of it … how Sister wasn’t moving so we were going to get to look at her and how Sister seemed to be hiding and how silly it was that Sister still wasn’t moving and look at all these people making all this fuss and we’re going to meet Sister today!
They were prepping me for emergency surgery when Karenna finally moved and they knew she was okay. We had these newborn emergency specialists moving so fast and it was so terrifying. We managed not to transmit any fear to Mare, who thought it was this special fun adventure. Then, in the car, I bawled it all out to my friend on the cell phone. How I thought I had killed the baby by being dumb enough to fall. How terrifying it was to be at the car wash one minute, and prepped for an emergency cesarian the next.
Mare heard every word. I thought she was asleep. I opened the car door and she was wide-eyed and weeping back there. Not only did she know that the baby had been in real trouble, but that we had lied to her about it.
She regressed a little and had nightmares, so that was a downside of what happened. The upside was that when Karenna arrived safely two weeks later, Mary had a wild protectiveness of her. Mary got that we almost lost her, and it had the positive effect that things like that have on people. She was devoted to her sister and the baby felt it and reciprocated. They have an unusually strong sister-bond and I think it began that day when Mare realized we thought we were going to lose her.
I would not have had Mare get the full brunt of my fear. But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t try to pretend that nothing was wrong, either. I think a happy medium is more honest and is good for the kid. As much as we wish it weren’t so, bad things are going to happen to our kids. As much as we can show them that bad things are just something we all have to incorporate into our lives, the better their coping skills. If I had it to do today, I would tell Mary that the baby might have been hurt in the fall and the doctors are doing everything they can for her. I would tell her simply, in a calm voice, and then let her know that Mary was going to be just fine, and our family was, too, no matter what happened. I have become convinced that you can’t hide the troubles of your life from your kids and it helps them to know that you have troubles and deal with them and they don’t scare you. (Okay, even if they really do scare you so in that sense you are TOTALLY lying. 🙂 )
Veronica Mitchell says
One night my husband went into the girls’ room to check on them. Our two-year-old had taken her pillow and laid right in front of the door, and he banged her on the head when he opened it.
We got the girls calmed down, and my oldest asked if I would read from the Bible the story of “when Jesus died on the cross.” I started to read, and got to a part where it said the soldiers beat him on the head, and my two-year-old started screaming, “Not on the head! Noooo!”
It was not a shiny moment for my parenting.
Badness Jones says
What a powerful post…..it’s hard to explain the horrible things in the world to our children…..I want to wrap them up and protect them from it forever. But sometimes I think that it is better to tell them the truth and then help them deal with it. When I was three our dog bit a neighbour’s horse and had to be put down. ONly my parents didn’t want to tell me that so they told me he’d run away. I looked for that dog for years….I didn’t find out the truth until I was a teenager, and then I cried. And cried. For my dog and for the little girl who looked for her him and wondered why he didn’t love her anymore and why he’d run away….
The Wiz says
When my oldest was four, I was watching an episode of ‘Judging Amy’ that I had recorded. It was after the kids were in bed, lest you think I was a horrible mom. She came downstairs looking for water just as Tyne Daly was forcibly removing a child from her mother’s arms. (The mother in the show was a junkie). It was awful. Daughter walked in the room to see the kid yelling “MoMMY!! Mommy! NOOOOO!” and the mom was screaming her name, as the child was being dragged away. My daughter stared at me and asked “Why is that Grandma taking that girl away from her mom?”
I tried to explain that the mom was sick, and when she got better the daughter would be able to go back to her, but the mom didn’t look sick, and the fear was planted. I had to sleep with my daughter that night, not only in her bed, but actually touching the whole night. She could not let me go, and today she still has a fear of abandonment that I really think is rooted in that.
So there’s an issue I “gave” my daughter that she’ll have to deal with for the rest of her life. Hopefully it won’t be too bad, as she grows up and we don’t abandon her, but it’s still a core fear of hers and she gets very upset in movies when characters get left behind or lost. (Remember in ‘Cars’ when Lightning got separated from Mac? Big time scariest scene for her.)
We all have to forgive our parents for something. And as parents, we all have to be forgiven. It’s just part of life.
You’re right – they need to be kids… on the other hand, they need to know the truth – especially when it comes to scripture stories. If we change the story each year how will they know which one is the truth? Hmm… this is an interesting topic that I will need to ponder for my own kittens (yeah, the meowing thing is very a very typical 4 year old thing…)
It’s amazing how perseptive they are. Good for you for noticing and doing something about it, she’ll be fine!
It’s a sad world that we’re raising these little people in. It’s hard for me to know just how much to share with my big kids (6 & 8). You’re a great mom!
Heather from One Woman's World says
Wow, this is an awesome post. Thanks for sharing. We all have moments like that… those realization times. I like how I just wrote Thanks for sharing… which if you’re in Junior High means “So glad you cared to share your enlightened wisdom with us, you lame-o”. I meant thanks for sharing in a good way… but then again… looking at it. Maybe there is no good way to write that phrase.
Betsy (Mom 2 3) says
To shield or not to shield? Is the question I ponder almost daily. Perhaps I lean to the not to shield more often than not. The world is big and real and scary. To shield or not to shield?
As parents, I think we all have to face the fact that our kids know ALOT more about what is going on than we think they do. Hence the age old saying, “Little pitchers have big ears.” I remember when I was having a hard time with baby number 4 and trying to sheild you older kids from the danger we were facing. I had no idea that you
As parents, I think we all have to face the fact that our kids know A LOT more about what is going on than we think they do. Hence the age old saying, “Little pitchers have big ears.”
I remember when I was having a hard time with baby number 4 and trying to sheild you older kids from the danger we were facing. I had no idea that you and H were sneaking down onto the landing everynight “the better to overhear the truama, don’t you know?” But you came out ok and Laylee will too. Just keep doing what you’re doing, ’cause it’s working great.
What great thoughts here. I made the mistake of showing my oldest daughter The Prince of Egypt (the animated Moses story), and when the mother set the baby in the river, she started to cry. I reassured her that the baby would be fine, and she saw that the baby was fine, but she couldn’t handle the idea that a mother would put her baby in the river, for any reason. Even now, if we play the soundtrack, she makes us skip that particular song. They are so tender, and sometimes I forget that what makes sense to me, may not make sense to her. And I definitely am guilty of forgetting she is there when I’m having grown up conversations.
Kimberly (sassy piggy) says
So precious. Are you grateful that she comprehends so much of the story…I had a very bad day recently and at one point buried my face in my hands as I tried to “get it together.” My 14 month old stood in front of me, silent and still for a moment, then pried my hands away from my face with a questioning look on his own perfect face. I got it together pretty quickly after that. He sensed that something was off. Normally when Mommy’s hands are over her face they come away quickly with an accompanying (and happily anticipated) “peek-a-BOO!” Kids catch on to more than we give them credit for. I’m convinced that babies are infinitely smarter than adults!
Yes. Yes. I hear you. I’ve had similar troubles this year with my 3 yo as I go through cancer treatment. It’s so hard to shield them, and, actually, impossible.
Or maybe the impossible part is deciding how much to let them in on. Kudos to you for seeing that so early.
And for all your work with flood relief. Awesome.
Sometimes I think that maybe we become a little used to violence and evil as adults and it doesn’t effect us in the same way as a child, and every once in awhile children realize to what extent and horror the evil really is. I think that children act in the more appropriate ways towards evil then us adults do. Killing millions of babies and almost getting our Savior? When you think about it in depth maybe it IS something that should make us cry and shudder. Poor girl. Mine have been there before and we end up talking about it a lot until they work it out in their minds and we reach a conclusion of understanding… sugar cookies help of course! 🙂 Take it as a sign of depth in her soul. She’s a wise girl who hasn’t had the genericness of this world make her shallow. Keep up the good work!
I say protect her innocence as long as possible. I don’t watch the news for this (and many others actually) reason. I don’t want them worried about things beyond their control and to not want to walk out the door to live.
And to be honest, I love that they are not unaffected when they do see/hear of tragedies or misfortunes in the world and their neighborhood. It does my heart good to hear them cry over the hurt that others have and that they want to do something about it.
I want to hug all my babies now.
Thanks for the link to the Little People nativity. I think I might get it just for me. 🙂
Meow?? lol Kids are expensive, funny, and so tiring… and worth it 2.
our little people nativity set has been used for all manner of things because we have all manner of little people but the best ever was when i overheard my 2 boys. They had Baby Jesus flying the jetliner and the Angel was an air traffic controller. My oldest commented that the Baby couldnt really fly the plane, and the youngest responded with I know but when He is there God does the flying for Him.
As for sheltering them, I too try to shelter them but sometimes fail miserably. When I was younger though I was a nanny for a little boy during the aftermath of the OKC bombing. Now I grew up in OKC and was deeply affected by it and the little boy of course did wind up seeing some both with me and with his parents. We explained that sometimes there are bad people who do bad things, but it also opened the door for wonderful people who did many good things to ease the pain of those who had been hurt.
Deb (Missives From Suburbia) says
I used to wonder how children lose their innocence so quickly these days, but I’m reminded that this is the era of 24 hours news and people talk about their feelings these days — neither of which is a bad thing. Now I wonder how children lose their sympathetic feelings. Look at your sweet little girl and how much she cares! When do people become cynical and stop caring about others?
I giggled a LOT about the liquid sugar line.