Parenting as Narrating

“Are those for Gabe?” Owen asks. He is four, tall, freckled, inquisitive, looking over my shoulder at the computer screen. He sees me perusing car seats, and is curious if they are for his little brother. I stumble around internally, searching my brain for the right mixture of words. “No. You know how our family has everything we need, and even so many things we want? Not all families have that. Mommy gets to help those families get what they need.”

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
“Good Bones”
Maggie Smith

He is perplexed but accepts the answer, and I am simultaneously saddened and relieved. He knows now that not all families are able to buy what they need. He has some sort of idea, now, that when Mommy is receiving UPS packages, they are filled with items that others in the community have helped pay for, so that a foster family has a stroller, or a family at risk for children being removed has enough mattresses. He knows, now, that these things do not appear magically, or without effort.

I should feel good about this teachable moment. Maybe I do, a little bit. Mostly, I feel sad, I feel the loss of his innocence. I feel the weight of narrating the story of life to my child, and the fact that the story is often tragic.

For every child loved, a child broken, bagged, sunk in a lake.

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