It used to be breaking news would go over my children's heads. Used to be, breaking news wouldn't even be on TV because we'd have on a channel just for kids that never showed crawls or news cut-ins.
Now though, my children are getting older and they are more perceptive and are sponges for information. Constantly questioning, reading things and figuring out what their parents are trying to secretly spell out in front of them.
This all became very evident to me this weekend while we were watching "It's a Wonderful Life" on an Atlanta TV station. Our 5-year-old started to read the crawl at the bottom of the screen. The crawl was about a little girl, Jorelys Rivera from Canton, Ga., who was missing.
"Three or four feet tall. Blue jeans and pink shirt," our son read. Our 8-year-old daughter, only one year older than Jorelys, asked about her. What happened? Where is she? Where was she? Where is her mom? We answered the questions that we could and talked to them about how police thought she was taken from near her apartment's playground. I stressed the need to be cautious of strangers, not really knowing if this was a stranger issue or not, just trying to reinforce to them about safety while we were on the subject.
I didn't really think it would all register to them. Still at ages where the next few hours are what's on their mind, I was quite surprised to hear my daughter say unprovoked after church on Sunday, "I think I saw that little missing girl in church today. She was sitting in front of us." I told her that I thought that was very smart of her to be looking for the girl but I didn't think that was her. She didn't meet the description good enough. My daughter asked, "I wonder if they found her."
She was really thinking about this.
How was I going to tell her what happened to Jorelys? That they found the sweet baby girl's body on Monday. Should I? Would it scare her too much? But, sadly, terribly, it's what happened. She should know. She cared about Jorelys. A girl who could have been my daughter's friend. She carried her purse and diary to the playground like my daughter would have. So innocent and sweet. Like all our children.
I told her and our son. I didn't get detailed. Just that I had sad news. They found the missing girl. I let the questions start, "Is she OK? Was she hurt? Where was she? Was she killed? Was she shot? How did she die? Who did it? But she was only seven."
I told them police are now trying to figure that out. Who did it. That the only people who really knew are Jorelys and the person who hurt her. "And God," my daughter said. "And Santa," my son added. "Santa knows."
A child's perspective of something so serious and sad. I explained that it doesn't matter if Santa knows. That this is bigger than Santa, but his young mind was determined, "But that person was not nice."
Yes, buddy, you're right. Not nice at all. The perspective of a child trying to figure out such a scary and heartbreaking situation is so complex to explain. I can't even imagine what precious Jorelys thought. Too young. So innocent. Only seven. With her purse and diary.