As one often tends to do in LeMars, Iowa, my mom and I were having that age-old discussion: "is-that-one-person-related-to-the-guy-who-went-to-jail-a-few-years-ago?" In this instance, "the-guy-who-went-to-jail" was a local man who allegedly molested children back when I was in high school.
So, my mom and I are talking about this guy (careful not to mention anything about "molestation" since my 8 year-old niece is in the room), but despite our efforts, my niece does hear us say "put in jail" and her ears inevitably perk up.
"Who went to jail?" she asks us.
"A guy." my mom says.
"Why?" she asks.
And there's a silence - yes, an uncomfortable silence. And my mom and I look at each other, not knowing what to say. And then... without a moment's hesitation... as if there wasn't an "uncomfortable silence" at all... my mom says...
"Stealing. He was arrested for stealing."
That's 29 years of motherhood at work. My mom knows what to say to appease a child - and consequently how not to demolish their china-plate world.
And yeah, you may disasgree with my mom's actions. It may have been "better" for her to tell her grand-daughter the full-truth. And it have been "better" to explain what "molestation" is and how "some people do some bad things," but... I'm glad she did what she did. Ignorance can have horrible consequences, I know. But knowledge can hurt like a sunuvabitch - especially when you're 8 years old.
However, I know if I had been in that position... I would have told the truth, but then... proceeded to muddle through some poor explanation which would have indeed shattered the aforementioned china-glass... metaphor.
And that's what scares me.
For years now (but especially within the last month), I think about how awful of a parent I would be. Not because I'd be negligent or abusive or anything like that, but because I'd be so over-concerned about protecting them - and not in the T.S. Garp fashion of making sure they don't break their bones or get hit by cars or whatever.
No, instead, I'd be wanting to protect them from all those "the world just revealed that it is an awful place" experiences. Cuz as anyone with even a passing interest in my plays/NS pieces/whatnot could easily glean... for me, childhood is that glorious/horrendous period where everything is glorious and horrendous. And I know that as a parent, I'd be so over-burdening in trying to keep a "perfect world" for my kids. And well... that's no way to raise a kid, right? You know why. I don't have to tell you.
Anyway, back here in LeMars, since I'm around more kids (no longer in the twentysomething-heavy Iowa City), I'm more exposed to these tales of "growin' up" and "experiencin' shitty things" and "the speedy passin' of youth" and I'm struck with such an overwhelming sense of melancholy. Sometimes I purposely avoid situations just so I don't have to deal with it - even when they're not overtly "shitty things."
But sometimes, you can't avoid everything. Sometimes, you have to go to your niece's dance recital where 5 year-old ballet dancers stumble through "Maybe" from the musical "Annie."
And goddamnit - don't you know? Those 5 year-olds made me weep like... a 5 year-old girl.