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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Originally published October 24, 2008

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay.

In my house, monsters are big. The same goes for pirates, vampires, and other bad guys my preschooler likes talking about these days.

“I think I heard a monster,” my three-year-old son tells me.

He is waiting for me to respond, as I’ve done a dozen times before. He says his line, and then I say mine, like we’re both reading from a script.

“You couldn’t have heard a monster, because there’s no such thing,” I reply.

His concern with monsters and other bad guys appeared several months ago. When he brings up the subject, I know he’s just expressing fears that are normal for his age and it’s my job to assure him that he’s safe. With two older children, I’ve played this role before. I’ve got my lines down cold.

On the other hand, when I’m speaking with my older children these days, I find my lines could use a little work. We’re also talking about bad guys — gunmen in Oakland, online predators, and even Russian troops invading Georgia. But it doesn’t work to tell my daughters that bad guys don’t exist because at their ages, nine and twelve years old, they know better.

Still, when a terrible event is in the news, and my daughters ask me about it, I want to pretend it’s not true. I’d rather respond as if they were three-years-old: “No, you couldn’t have heard right — there are no bad guys.” I’d like to keep protecting them, the same way I’ve always done.

However, I know I have no choice but to respond with real information. So, I muddle ahead, while debating with myself exactly what to say. Should I opt for the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Or, should I offer only the briefest information? Should I gloss over the worst of it and try to present the most positive picture?

As it happens, my daughters show me the way. They ask questions that give me answers for figuring out what to say. Usually, we dig much deeper than I could’ve anticipated.

I’ve come to realize that, unlike their little brother, they’re not looking for assurances. They’re looking for explanations about the bad things that happen, just like the rest of us. Furthermore, they don’t seem particularly scared hearing about bad guys.

I like telling myself they’re not scared because I’m such a good mother. I did a great job, when they were younger, pretending there’s nothing in this world to fear.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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