Jax has been talking about “bad guys” a lot this week. It’s unnerving, as you might imagine given the Sandy Hook tragedy. The hopeful part of me considers this a coincidence. Afterall, he’s 3 and a half now, and I watch his imagination become bigger and better every day. He isn’t shielded from a whole lot by my husband or me. He watches a fair amount of television (although our tv rarely changes from the Disney Jr channel). He likes superheroes and their movies, which, as you know if you’ve ever seen one, always feature a bad guy or two. As soon as he gets scared, we turn off the movie and tell him it isn’t real. Then he asks to watch Disney Jr again. Simple as that.

I’m trying to recall whether he’s ever actually talked to me about bad guys before last Friday, and I can’t remember. He must have, right? I’m sure this is selective memory on my part. Or whatever you call that phenomenon that occurs when, for example, you’re trying to get pregnant and it seems like everyone around you is popping out a baby.

I’m still trying to not think about what happened last Friday. I’m trying to push the bad thoughts out of my brain daily—multiple times daily, like whenever I open my Facebook account or check Twitter. But then my 3-year-old starts talking about bad guys again.

I got angry when I first thought that maybe his daycare teachers mentioned something about the shooting to the kids. I mean, they’re 3 years old! Still so innocent, too young to talk to about murderers. Right? And that’s my job, when I choose to tackle it, right?

I’m struggling with the decision to talk to Jax or not about what to do if he encounters a bad guy in real life. On the one hand, the knowledge could save his life. On the other hand, have I mentioned he’s only 3? I’m so afraid to scare him at this young age. And I don’t even know what to tell him to do! Run? Hide? Pretend he’s dead (I’d probably opt for the gentler “pretend you’re asleep”)? I can’t even stomach the idea of this conversation with my baby boy. So far, all I’ve done is reinforce the message that there are always helpers around if he ever needs one (teachers, police officers, and so on). I like the Mr. Rogers quote about this that has made the social media rounds recently. One of these days, I’ll even read past the quote and learn from the rest of the article.

I know there are resources out there for parents to learn how to discuss tragedies with their kids—like the one I linked to above–and how kids should act if they occur. But I can’t face those articles just yet.

Do I have to? He’s 3. Barely a little boy. He still has the same nose he had when he was a baby. It’s like a button.

During Fire Prevention Awareness Week, he learned what to do in case of fire. And then about a month ago, I taught him how to call 9-1-1 on my cell phone in the event of an emergency, which to him means a fire (I didn’t elaborate on all the potential emergencies that could happen). That was scary and real enough. I never thought I’d be questioning whether to talk to him about hiding or playing dead if he encounters a bad guy with a gun.

Aside from teaching him about 9-1-1 and how to stop-drop-and-roll, I have no experience with this kind of thing and I’m floundering and frightened. I will do anything to keep my child safe, but I’m not willing to rob him of a single moment of his childhood until I have to. How do I know when is the right time?

I’m asking for your help. Have you talked to your 3- or 4-year-old about the incident? Have you discussed with him or her how to respond to an act of violence? I’m truly interested in your thoughts on this.

I want my son to grow up in a world where people aren’t bullied simply for living their lives. Part of me thinks this is wishful thinking. But the optimistic, idealist part of me thinks it’s possible.

I’m sharing the infographic below because it’s eye opening, particularly this line near the bottom:

9 out of 10 LGBT kids have experienced harrassment at school.

When I was in high school a long, long time ago, I witnessed that kind of bullying firsthand. I’m happy to say that I stepped in and stopped it, along with my best friend at the time. His name was Brian, and he was openly gay. Our high school (and our town) was pretty close-minded about that kind of thing–about any minority, to be honest. And one day, my best friend and I were driving down one of our town’s two main streets, near the high school, and saw Brian being chased by most of the football team, yelling at and threatening him while they all ran towards our car. We pulled over, opened the door, and urged Brian to jump in the car. Fortunately, he did, and we gave him a ride home.

We protected him that day. But we couldn’t do it every day. I’m pretty sure Brian got beat up a few times during his brief time at my high school. He didn’t stay for the full year, if I remember correctly. I think of him sometimes and hope he was able to get an education in a place that wasn’t so close-minded, so mean.

My high school was chock full of bigots and bullies, now that I think of it. Sure I was a little oddball, with my poetry scribbled on my sneakers and my holey grandpa sweaters held together with safety pins. But I wasn’t a vampire, a lesbian, or a Satan worshipper–all things I was called both to my face & behind my back during the 3 years I went there, and by kids who never took the time to get to know me. It didn’t bother me too much then. But now that I have a son, it does.

It saddens me to think that Jackson will encounter bullying during his education. I hope he isn’t the bully or the victim, but I’m pretty sure he’ll at least witness situations like those I experienced myself. I just hope they’re not worse.

I pledge to teach my son about bullying–why it’s wrong and how to rise above it if it happens to him. I will teach him about accepting people for who they are and that it isn’t nice to label them. How do you plan to teach your child?

 

This is a sponsored post.

The other night, I read Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual cover to cover in one sitting.

Read this book! You will not regret it. (Image from Amazon.com)

 

The book is described as:

a set of memorable rules for eating wisely, many drawn from a variety of ethnic or cultural traditions. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat-buffet, this handy, pocket-size resource is the perfect guide for anyone who would like to become more mindful of the food we eat.

I had been longing to read this book for months, so I finally bit the bullet and bought it on my iPhone. I figured it would be a handy book to have electronically for my grocery trips–you know, when I’m standing in the middle of the produce section for way too long, trying to figure out the best choices for my family.

Even having the table of contents alone would change the way my family eats. Here’s a snippet of my favorite food rules (chapters) listed on the table of contents:

Chapter 2 – Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
Chapter 7 – Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
Chapter 11 – Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
Chapter 19 – If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
Chapter 43 – Have a glass of wine with dinner. (*My favorite rule, perhaps!)

It is my hope that I will retain some of what I read in this short guide for better eating and better health, especially when I’m passing by the junk food aisles of my grocery store. I’ve been trying to limit myfamily’s intake of processed foods for quite a while now, unsuccessfully. We are a family who works full time and don’t always have the time required to make meals from scratch. In other words, we eat frozen pizza once a week and rely on chicken nuggets for too many daycare lunches. If I could change any one thing about the way I eat, it would be to strictly limit processed foods in our diet.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear what you took away from it and whether you still follow the rules.