Image: Wikicommons Media
I had to run a few errands yesterday, and left the kids with a wonderful babysitter.
As I was driving back from the store, I noticed a lot of smoke billowing on a hillside near our home.
I panicked. Traffic thickened with cars rubbernecking and I leaned on my horn and let loose a string of shouted expletives. They wouldn’t budge. I did a U-turn and took a local short-cut but the smoke was spreading and spreading. I called my babysitter, who reported that she was seeing white ash land in our yard and a lot of smoke in the air.
I have rarely been so terrified. Luckily, our local firefighters were able to quickly control the fire and while it briefly threatened homes it was quickly extinguished. But to watch that fire spread closer to my children while I was powerless to stop it or get them was beyond scary.
Later, I took the kids out for Chinese food and on our way home, I pointed out the black scorched hillside to them. My daughter was extremely disturbed by the damage done to the hill and the land. It really upset her. “The hill got hurt!” she kept saying. Seeing that charred slope was the first time she has noticed that sometimes, bad things happen. She cried and cried. I tried to reassure her that eventually the rains would come and heal the earth and bring back the green grass and the wildflowers. “But, when?” she kept asking, “Tomorrow? Thursday? Friday?” Most poignantly to me, she asked, “Can I make the hill green again?”
I had to explain that no. It was not in her power to make the hill green. Sometimes, we have no control over what happens to our hills, to our lives.
Obviously, I explained this as delicately as I could. But what a difficult message this was to have to impart to a child!
How do you explain the harder aspects of the world to children?