When I arrived home from work today, I could tell something was on The Red Head's mind. She has a way of letting me know she needs me, but holding back until she feels the time is right. I try to give her her space whenever she desires it. I understand that she processes things. She's like me. When something is truly troubling her, she has to sort it out before she presents it for further examination. I get that.
I get her.
This evening, while the 4 yr old was gleefully playing in his bubble bath, The Red Head and I sat at the dinner table. She picked over her dinner and drank some milk. I was eager to get to the bottom of what was troubling my beautiful 7 yr old.
"Momma," she began. "Did you know a girl got shot yesterday?"
She's referring to a 15 yr old student that was shot at the local high school. My alma mater in fact. We live out in the country, and so far we have been pretty lucky in that most of the troubles that plague the city schools have not touched us. But, the 21st century and all its new found concerns finally caught up to us. They came and kicked down the protective wall that we had built so long ago.
"Yes, baby. I heard about that. Is that what's bothering you?"
"Kind of." She wouldn't look at me. Keeping her eyes on her plate, she took a deep breath. "Is she going to die?"
"I don't know. Nobody knows. All we can do is pray."
"Is that why you tell me not talk to strangers? Is that why I can't leave the front yard? Because there are mean people who will shoot me?"
"There are mean people everywhere," I told her. Brushing the hair out of her eyes, I was able to get a quick glance from her before she put her attention back on the untouched food. "My goal is keep you safe."
"But, she was at school. Why wasn't she safe there?"
And I have no answers for that. It's a question that every parent faces: How do you keep your children safe when even our schools are no longer safe places for them?
Better yet, how do I explain this to my 7 yr old?
"Do you think that girl had nightmares, Momma?" She looked at me with deep brown eyes. I could see the worry settling in. I hate to admit it, but she is a worrier.
"What do you mean? Do you think she dreamt she was gonna die?"
Frustrated, The Red Head shook her head. "No, I mean, do you think she ever had bad dreams? I have bad dreams a lot. My dream catcher isn't catching them. I don't think it's big enough."
"Everyone has bad dreams. The girl that got shot had them. I have them. And you will have them from time to time. Do you know what faith is?"
"Don't put your faith in a dream catcher. Put your faith in God. Say a prayer whenever you have a bad dream. The Lord will pull you back into sleep and it will be a peaceful one."
"How do you know?" She asked me.
"Because He does it for me all the time," I answered.
"Momma, that girl that was shot....... Do you think she's having bad dreams right now?"
"No, sweetie. God has His hand on her. And no matter what happens, there are so many people praying for her, He will take care of her the way He sees fit."
I could see a puzzled look cross her face. Sometimes I get caught up in trying to explain God, that I forget to use the simplest terms possible. But, I don't know of any simple way to explain a being as awesome as He is.
"Just realize that God is going to take care of her. Even if it's not the way we want. He knows what's best. Do you understand?"
She nodded and hugged my neck. Later on, as we were saying our prayers, we threw in an extra one for the young girl whose life took a tragic turn.
And then we said another prayer against any bad dreams.