Yesterday after school, my daughter dashed into the house carrying the biggest stuffed lamb I’d ever seen. My husband followed soon after, telling me with an apologetic smile that it had been on sale for only $7, and he couldn’t resist her hopeful face, and he bought it for her even though her stuffed toys already number well over a hundred.
As they walked in, I was sitting on the couch watching the same loop of video and information about the Boston Marathon bombing, over and over, including that terrible shot of a man missing the bottom of his leg, holding the shattered parts of it in his lap in a wheelchair as volunteers ran him to safety.
My daughter already knew what had happened in Boston, and after a handful of typical near-seven-years-old questions, she promptly headed away from the television, clutching her lamb and engaging in a lengthy, and very loud, conversation with the toy that involved loud baaaaaing like a sheep.
“I realized, finally, that she was indeed living in the real world, and she knew full well that the real world is a scary and ugly place.
– Cecily Kellogg
I became incredibly irritated as the volume of baaaaing hit top levels. I wanted to scream and cry and tear my hair out because of the tragedy, and here she was, calmly baaaaing like a sheep? Didn’t she realize how important this was? People were hurt and dying and she was clueless. My mood had been dark all day, and the bombings pushed me over the edge into blackness. I wanted to scream at her about the injustice of it all, about respecting the dead, about the gravity of being a fragile human being in a violent world.
You know, the real world.
Later that evening, I was still carrying my black mood into her bedroom when it was time to put her to bed, unable to shuck it off even in this quiet moment. My daughter lay stretched out on her bed with her arms around her lamb; the lamb was nearly her size. She started talking about her special school, saying that she didn’t want to go there anymore when she was a teenager because she’d rather go to a horseback riding school. I told her that maybe we’d go horseback riding sometime this spring and that she could ride her very own horse and hold the reins and everything.
Suddenly, she was weeping, sobbing inconsolably about how scared she is to ride a horse alone, how she’d rather ride with someone else controlling the horse. I tried to console her, but it was to no avail: my blackness made me a crappy mom in that moment, and soon we were yelling at each other.
I realized, finally, that she was indeed living in the real world, and she knew full well that the real world is a scary and ugly place.
I lay down beside her and the lamb and put my arms around her. She cried, a bit, then sighed finally and snuggled into me. I told her I was sorry, that I loved her, and that she didn’t have to ride a horse alone if she wasn’t ready. I told her I was sorry for yelling at her. She said she was sorry for yelling too.
When I think of the sidewalk full of blood and the broken bones and frightened faces in Boston, I now also think of one scared little girl who is absorbing too much of the world. A little girl who still lets me hold her in my arms and tell her that she will be okay.
If only I could wrap my arms around Boston as easily.