How a toy gun and my 4 year old (unwittingly) helped me process the Newtown tragedy

The toy that led me to have a talk with my 4 year old that I didn't want to have.

The toy that led me to have a talk with my 4 year old that I didn’t want to have.

One week after the Newtown tragedy, I came downstairs, still in my pajamas, and saw a silver toy pistol on our kitchen table, in the place we normally set down meals for our four year old daughter, Lily.

Sitting in her chair, wearing white tights and a white dress with blue polka dots, Lily declared, “I’m taking it to preschool.”

“No, sweetie,” I said, shaking my head firmly, a chill in my voice. “You’re not.”

“Yes, I am,” she replied, stubbornly. “For show and tell. Some of the boys bring guns for show and tell.”

“I told her she couldn’t take it,” my husband said, bustling about the kitchen, getting everyone’s breakfast. But my mind was already racing. How could I explain Newtown to a four year old when adults – myself included – were having an impossible time processing it themselves? I’d naively thought I could avoid the whole conversation. Lily wasn’t in elementary school yet, and kids her own age wouldn’t necessarily have stumbled upon the story.

But it was like the tragedy refused to stay in the shadows, shoved under a rug. Continue reading

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