It's inevitable that parents are going to screw up their kids. We just are. We're human. It can still come as a bit of a shock, however, when we're faced with the specifics of that passed-down disfunction.
After Sandy Hook, Derek and I both talked to Adelaide about what had happened. We knew she was going to find out about it at school (it was interesting to talk to parents who decided not to talk to their children about it- a decision I have absolutely no problem with and understand completely- who were then astonished to find that their kid had then heard a garbled version of the truth on the playground). Obviously, the story as we related it to our daughter was heavily filtered, but still: she knew what had happened. I then went on to talk about what I expected her to do if, God forbid, an armed gunman were ever to enter her elementary school or our church. We talked about available building exits, which windows open and which don't, and the relative merits of hiding vs fighting vs fleeing.
We've continued in the vein of this conversation several times over the past few months; just the odd discussion here and there. Every once in a while, though, something she does will take me by surprise.
At church a couple weeks ago, I was hanging up our coats and the boys were changing out of snow boots and into shoes when I noticed something strange around Adelaide's neck.
"Adelaide- isn't that the strap to one of your purses?"
"Why are you wearing... you know what? Never mind. Just take it off and put it in my bag. You can put it back on after church."
"But Mom! I need to wear this in my class!"
"Why would you need to wear a purse strap around your neck in class?"
"Because if a bad guy comes into my class this is my weapon! See, I'd use this little hook thing to scratch his eyes out and then I'd loop the whole strap around his feet so he couldn't escape!"
Then yesterday she and I were making cookies when the conversation underwent a rapid shift from M&M's to home invasions.
"Hey, Mom, do you know what I'd do if a bad guy broke into our house and wanted to rob us?"
"I'd tell him that there was a pearl necklace up in my room, and it would take him a few minutes to get up there and realize that the pearls aren't real, and while he's doing that we could escape."
"Uh, yeah, I don't really-"
"Or if there's ever bad guys that come in the house and we hear them coming before they see us, I have our escape routes all planned out. (Goes on to detail a complex but well-thought-out plan.) Then, Daddy could lift me over the back fence first, because I'm a really good climber and could help him, then I would be on the other side to help catch the boys."
I wasn't really sure how to respond at first. I was torn between wanting to praise her for her forethought, the need to correct and point out the flaws in each plan so that she could correct them just in case the need ever does arrive to employ these plans, and subtly inquiring after her mental health.
I went with mental health.
"Adelaide, do you think about bad guys coming to get you a lot?"
"Of course I do! Don't you?"
Oh, tricksy, tricksy. Because the answer to that question is a resounding "Yes." But I'm also not really comfortable with the idea of saddling a six year old with my personal brand of paranoia. Alas, honesty won out.
"Yes, I do." Now how to tell her that not everyone thinks this way and not make her feel like the freak she is? "But you know, not everyone does. In fact, I think the majority of people don't think about this kind of thing nearly as often as we do."
"Well, that just means that if something terrible happens to a whole bunch of people, we're going to be the ones to survive, and they're going to wish they'd made all kinds of great plans like I do every day."
Hard to argue with that.