Several weeks ago, two girls were abducted in the neighboring states of Wyoming and Colorado. One survived, one did not. As I was following the stories, and reading the Amber Alert of little Jessica Ridgeway, my 5 year old walked over to me and saw her photo. “Who is that?” he asked. I explained it was a little girl who was missing. I didn’t do this lightly. My child is five. I try to shelter him from the evils of the world, but he needs to understand that there are “bad people” out there. While I do not want to terrify him, he needs to understand that the world is not a perfect place.
There is a missing child. He gets that concept. “Why would somebody take her?” he asks. I tell him because there are bad people in the world. “Will he kill her?” he asks. I’m not prepared for that.
My 5 year old understands the concept of murder. Five. Great, when did that happen, I wonder. I’m honest with him; I do not know. Now he is getting agitated. Why can’t the police find her and take her back to her mommy? Not all of these stories have happy endings like Finding Nemo, I tell him. THIS IS WHY YOU CAN’T LEAVE MY SIDE, I silently scream to him. I explain again that there are bad people. I don’t know why they do what they do. There are not a lot of bad people, but they are out there.
“Why can’t we get in the car and go out there and find her?”
“Yeah, why can’t we?” my inner 5 year old asks the “big” me. Because my job is more important than a missing child? Because I would feel useless, not knowing where to look? My son is looking at me with pleading eyes. They seem to say, “What if that was me? Wouldn’t you want the whole country looking for me?” I explain to him that she lives very far away, and this bad man could have taken her anywhere in the country. I suggest that we pray. He seems to accept this.
Days later, the police find a body, and then confirm the identity. I realize in the excitement of the Chuck E Cheese birthday party over the weekend, Colin has not asked about her. I hope he forgets, but I know he won’t. Monday morning, we are barely out of the driveway when he asks me about the missing girl. “Did they find her yet?” he asks. I pause. “Honey, she is dead. They found her, but it was too late. She died.” I try to hurriedly explain that while her Mommy and Daddy are so sad and miss her, that she is OK now. She is very happy and with Jesus. I say that as much as parents love their children, Jesus loves them even more. I say it’s hard to understand but its true and she is so happy right now, she isn’t missing anyone. She is safe and warm and loved by God.
Amazingly, he seems OK with this answer. We go on to school, and there is no more mention of it.
Days later, he tells me he wants to be a policeman. I ask him why. He stops what he is doing, looks me straight in the eye, and says, “So I can kill the bad people. You know.”
Yes, I do know.