Up until now, Kiddo has led a very sheltered life. She's never known of any of the world's tragedies or catastrophes in any real way. I mean, she was born in 2003, so she missed 9/11. She was just a toddler for both the Indian Ocean Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Even if she had been old enough to be aware of what was happening, we would've kept it from her. We have a strict no-news policy in our house. Kiddo never watches any news program nor does she listen to any news radio either here at home or anywhere else as much as we can help it. (Yes, this means I'm perpetually shutting off the Fox News channel when we're visiting my parents - it is on full volume 24/7 there.) When Haiti was devastated by the earthquake last week, Kiddo was none the wiser. Hubby and I saw the newscasts on TV, the videos and photos online. I felt my heart break anew with each picture or tweet or headline. I have no personal connection to Haiti (though I have friends who do). Even still, how can one be human and not feel the pain of the utter devastation and the anguish of being mostly powerless to help? This was the pain I was keeping from Kiddo. I didn't want her to worry, I didn't want to introduce the rainclouds of human tragedy to her child's perpetually sunny world view. (Well, sunny except for those times when Mommy or Daddy is being MEAN to her, which still is a childlike raincloud.)
Then Kiddo came home from school yesterday with a small sheet of green paper in her backpack. As I was fishing out her lunchbag to determine how much food might possibly have actually been ingested during the school day, she picked up the green paper and began to read. "Haiti suffered a horrible earthquake.........."
Enter rainclouds. She was instantly filled with questions. What's a Haiti? What's an earthquake? What does "suffered" mean?
So, we had our first Big Talk, right then and there, me sitting on the steps and her on my lap. Putting it into terms I hoped she could understand and issuing many reassurances that we do not live in an area prone to earthquakes ourselves, I explained as best I could.
Her first reaction was to ask me if we could go to Haiti and help look for people who were stuck under buildings that fell down. I explained that we personally couldn't go there right now, but that there were lots and lots of people from the US and around the world who are going there to help.
Her second reaction was to run upstairs to her room and grab her piggy bank. She emptied it out and said she planned to donate all of her money to the school's collection jar (the actual purpose of that small, green flyer was to let families know the student council at her school has decided to collect money to donate to UNICEF for relief efforts in Haiti). I helped her count it out and put it into a baggie to bring to school, and she did today. All $8.21 - a princely sum for a child who doesn't get a regular allowance (beyond the Tooth Fairy, she does scrounge for pennies and such whenever possible though!) - that she had in her piggy bank went into the school's collection jar today.
I am so proud of her. So happy that her first thoughts were not so much to worry for herself but of concern for the people affected by the tragedy, so happy that her first instincts were "what can I do to help?" Apparently something we're doing in raising her is coming out all right. I'm also relieved that she hasn't had a bad reaction to the news, that she didn't dream about it or dwell on it as I was worried she might. They talked about Haiti in class today, looking it up on a map and talking about the earthquake. (Hopefully my rusty recollection of plate tectonics and fault lines wasn't too off the mark and jibed with what the teacher told the class today!) I don't know if we've been doing the right thing by sheltering her. I know that now that she's in school, current events will become more a part of her daily existence whether I'd want them to or not. I'm just glad that she's handling this first, big world tragedy as well as she seems to be. I did hear Kiddo reassuring some of her stuffed animals that "it's okay, we don't live on the edge of a plate so there won't be an earthquake here, and our house is very strong, too, anyway" so I know she is processing it. So far, so good.
I would urge everyone out there, if you haven't already, to please take a moment and do what you can to help the people of Haiti. If you need a starting point, one of my oldest friends is part Haitian. She has family there, and she posted here about ways you can help. Anything you can do to help is more than they have. Even if all you have is $8.21 out of your piggy bank, please do consider helping. As my friend Lylah said in her blog, "Please keep the victims and their families in your thoughts, and do what you can to help responders help those in need. Remember: No amount is too small. Right now, everything counts."