Friday, February 19, 2010


The older my daughter gets, the more I understand some of the things my own mother used to say to me.

Things like "it doesn't matter how old you are, you'll always be my CHILD. You'll always be my BABY." Usually, she would say something like this and I would roll my eyes at her, or dismiss it with a "yeah, I know."

But I didn't know. I didn't REALLY know. Only now am I starting to get it.

Amanda is my baby. She will always be my baby.

The problem with this is that she isn't a baby anymore. She is a little girl. A smart little girl, who understands more than I am willing to give her credit for. She is ready for me to teach her some things that, frankly, I am not ready to teach her.

Yesterday, while Amanda was at school, I was working from home, sitting in the office with the tv on in the background, playing re-runs of "Cold Case." Abruptly, at around 3:30 in the afternoon, the show was interrupted with one of those "Emergency Broadcast System" alerts. This time, unlike most other times, it was not "only a test." It was an amber alert for a one year old baby girl who had been abducted from her mother in a nearby town. For the remainder of the afternoon, the alert would come on every half-hour or so, and every time it aired I grew sadder and sadder.

I picked Amanda up at school, and on the way home I turned on the radio just in time to hear that the police had found the baby in Connecticut, left abandoned in a parking lot, but otherwise safe and sound. Without thinking, I said aloud "Oh thank GOD!"

And then Amanda wanted to know what I was saying that for.

It is funny how sometimes a moment presents itself, and you know that the way you handle it can have significant consequences. Up to this point, I have dealt with Amanda as a "baby," and tried to keep her sheltered from "grown-up" things. And my first instinct was to just blow off her question, to dismiss it with an "oh, it's nothing."

But this time, I didn't. I am suddenly, almost jarringly, aware that I am dealing with a young person who needs me to educate her - even when that education may cause her to lose a bit of her innocence. As a parent, it is not my job to ONLY teach her to read and to write and to sing and to dance and to be polite, etc etc...I am learning that I need to teach her about the unpleasantness in life too.

Which, frankly, SUCKS.

Nothing worse, I am finding, than to look at your innocent, angelic child, and tell her in no uncertain terms about the evil that lurks around every corner. But it is necessary. I would be doing her a greater disservice to try to keep her sheltered. Right?

So, yesterday I saw Amanda's question as an opportunity to teach her. And while I might have robbed her of a bit of her innocence in doing so, I really think it was a conversation that needed to happen.

I explained that someone kidnapped a baby. I then realized that I needed to explain what "kidnapped" meant. So I told her that a baby was stolen from its mommy and daddy. I hated seeing the expression on her face, but I went on to explain that there are some people out there who are not very nice people, and you can't tell by looking at them if they are nice or not. I further explained that this is why it is important that she doesn't run away from me if we are in a store, or that she holds my hand when we are walking in a big crowd of people. I told her that I didn't ever want someone to try to kidnap her away from me.

Then, before I completely scared the crap out of her, I explained that I was happy when I turned on the radio because the news said that the police found the baby, and that she was okay, and that the police were bringing the baby home to her mommy and daddy.

I could tell that Amanda was listening to me very intently, and she asked me a few follow up questions. And, just as quickly as the conversation had begun, it was over. Dwelling on it, spending a lot of time on it, was very unneccesary at her age. She is FOUR.

BUT...the difference is, she is FOUR. She is old enough now that I can discuss more serious, more "grown up" concepts with her, at a basic level. She doesn't need me to spend a ton of time on it, or go into all sorts of detail. But - and this is the hardest part of all for me to realize - she can handle it. She can. She is ready to learn that life is not always going to be perfect.

I'm not sure that I am ready, but the truth of it all is that I don't think I will EVER be ready. While life can be great, it can also really suck sometimes, too. I hate that I have to be the one to slowly open my daughter's eyes to this sad fact.

If I could, I would shelter her from every horrible thing life will hand her. Today, it is a scraped knee. Tomorrow, it will be a broken heart. I will want to always take away any and all of her pain, if I can. Because no matter how old she is, Amanda is my child. She is my baby, and she will ALWAYS be my baby, whether she is four, or fourteen, or twenty-four.