I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from the Princess's teacher. It's not the kind of phone call you want to get.
One of her classmates was travelling with his family on Friday and was in an accident. He was seriously injured and sent to the nearest children's hospital, his mother was less seriously injured and in a different hospital (in a different city) and his father was killed. The teacher is letting all of the parents know so they can talk to their children about it before they get on the school bus and hear rumours.
I was saddened by the news. My heart goes out to that mother, living one of a parent and wife's greatest fears. My heart broke for that little boy who is suddenly without a father, trapped in hospital with his own injuries and without his mother. And my heart broke just a little bit more for my own child, whose worldview was about to be twisted just that little bit.
I didn't want to have to have this kind of a conversation with my children so soon. 6 years old is not old enough to feel the touch of tragedy. I called my husband at work first to make sure we agreed on how to handle it. We agreed that I would tell her privately right away, and depending on how she took the news we would (or wouldn't) have a family meeting about it when he got home.
I had forgotten how resilient kids are.
She was worried at first, wondering "Who will be his dad now?". She worried about who would do the work so they could have groceries. I reassured her that his mom would make a plan and that the family has lots of people who love them and will help them. I told her that this wasn't something that she needed to worry about and she trusted me on that point. Then she wondered if he might cry at school and we talked about what she could do to help him if he did.
Then she thought for awhile, curled up in my lap. I wondered what was going on in her head and prepared to comfort her if she needed a little cry (I had had one when I heard the news--I was glad the kids were playing together in another room).
She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said: "I don't think I would like to be in a hospital. We should send him some things. I bet he'd like a movie.". Then she hopped off my lap and started pulling movies off the shelf to send to him.
I love that child and the ways she surprises me.
In the end we kept our movies because we don't know if he can watch them, if he already has them, etc. I told her we could make him a card and write him a letter (in French or English she asked with suspicion) and that we would come up with a better present once we found out more about how he's hurt and how long he'll be in the hospital.
She went off to play, assured that things were being taken care of by the grownups. She didn't even say anything to the others, so we're holding off on the family meeting for now. Her teacher will keep everyone up to date and send off care packages that we can contribute to as soon as we know what we can and can't include. There will probably be a community fundraiser to help them over the initial financial hurdles and just let them know that we hold them all in our thoughts and prayers.
But I said an extra little prayer for my children yesterday and the fleeting innocence of childhood.