By Jade Stone
It’s amazing how much kids learn from their environments, even when we are absolutely certain that they are focused on playing and paying no attention to their surroundings. Nonetheless we do our best to continue our daily lives while keeping a fine tuned ear to the music they listen to, and a watchful eye on the movies/shows/cartoons that are playing in their vicinity. We believe that at the end of the day, we’ve managed to protect them from the mean, nasty world that exists around us.
But there are two truths revealed in the world we live in: 1)no matter how hard we try, they do not live in a bubble; and 2) we cannot always shelter them from the harsh realities of the world.
With my husband being a soldier, we determined early on that we didn’t want our now 4-year-old son to know too much about what daddy does. Jess learned at a very young age that daddy works on “hedicockers”(helicopters) and sometimes has to go away to fix them. We in no way share the harsh realities of deployment and all that entails. However, somehow he’s learning.
One day while preparing for a drill weekend, we were helping daddy pack so that he would have all the things he needed to “fix hedicockers”. He neatly folded all the important things into his backpack and began folding up his ACU’s (uniform) when Jess began gazing curiously at it.
You can always tell when a child is seriously contemplating an idea and working as fast as his cognitive wheels will turn to figure something out. Well, this was the look. We waited a millisecond to see if he might share his thought when, before we could ask, Jess looked at the uniform with big, brown, inquiring eyes, and then up at Jay and asked “Daddy, do you shoot people”? You could hear a pin drop.
If you’ve ever felt the air being sucked out of a room, you know that there is a tiny fraction of time in which no one breathes, or speaks. The blood drains from the face as shock overtakes your expressionless face while you frantically sift through your babbling thoughts to find a coherent answer, and not just any answer but one that a 4 year old can comprehend.
Jay and I looked at each other, dumbfounded at our little man’s sense of logic. As I tried to figure out where on earth he might have gotten such a notion, it occurred to me that he has learned from toys that gun-like objects shoot (Nerf toys, or any number of boys’ toys), and that on TV, men in clothes just like daddy’s carry guns (the news) so it stands to reason that he has put two and two together to make four.
Finally, through tear filled eyes, Jay managed to explain that “daddy just works on helicopters and only uses his hands to help others”. And while that answer seemed to satisfy Jess enough to continue playing, the sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs that represented the very possible reality of the future seemed overwhelming.
The fact is, one day we will have to approach this very same topic with our son in the future and while right now we could tell him the honest truth, we may not get off the hook so easily in the future with a much older, wiser little boy.