Any parent who has raised a child knows this is their favorite question. When they get to be around the age of 4, 5, 6, 7, they begin questioning everything around them. No longer do they simply accept things as facts - they want things explained to them. They are curious about the world around them and will incessantly ask the question "why" to every single thing a parent says.
A simple request, really - and a great learning tool for children.
"Turn off the TV." "Why?" "Because it's time to go to bed." "Why?" "Because you have school tomorrow." "Why?" "Because everyone goes to school so you can learn and grow up and get a job." "Why?" "Because one day you're going to be older like Mommy and Daddy and you're going to get married and have kids of your own and you'll need a job to support them." "Why?" ....
How many of us have been caught in this cycle of "why" only to end the conversation with "because I said so!" Unfulfilling really - to both the kids and to ourselves, but sometimes it's the only way to stop the "why" question.
But what happens when we can't simply end the round robin inquiry of "why" with because I said so? What happens when we simply don't have the answers?
Yesterday, I went to pick up my son from his after school program. The bus from his elementary school (or "big boy school" as he calls it) drops him off at his after school program, (or "little boy school" as he calls it), where he stays for about 45 minutes until Mommy picks him up.
A small, 2 room school house from the 1800's, there is a rustic charm and sense of stepping back in time every time I go to pick him up. A family run business, his teachers have become like family to us as Tommy has been there since he was 3 years old. But yesterday, everything changed.
The front door was locked. This small, quaint, two-room school house where I had picked up my child for the past 4 years now locked its doors.
My husband and I chose not to discuss the events of last Friday with Tommy. He's 7, the same age as many of the young children we lost, and we didn't want to scare him about going to school or active shooters or little kids dying - we wanted to protect him from the news as much as possible. We limited our exposure to the news, watching only when he was asleep or in another room, wanting to protect his innocence as long as possible. However, as soon as I picked up my son, I noted something was troubling him. As we made the short drive home, I asked him the usual questions about his day -trying to discern if somehow he "knew."
We made it through his "big boy school" report without incident. And were just about finished with his report on "little boy school" when it happened.
"Oh, and a third grader on the bus said that 20 kids and their teachers got killed on Friday at school. Their teachers got shot and," he whispered softly "20, not 2, Mom, but 20 kids... died. Is that true, Mommy?"
Trying to compose myself, I took a deep breath and said "Yes, sweetheart. You remember how Grandma is in heaven? Well these little kids and their teachers are in heaven with her now. And remember how Mommy told you that we are all part of God's plan? Well he must have needed them to call them back so early."
And I reassured him that it was okay to be scared but that Mommy and Daddy do everything they can to protect him and that his school is safe.
I told him if he had any questions, that he could ask Mommy or Daddy, or big brother even. And we would do our very best to answer them...Did he have any questions?
He thought for a moment and initially said "No."
But then he said "Oh wait, yes, I do. Mommy? Why did he kill those little kids?"
What happens when we simply don't have the answers?