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Big Realities

A couple of days ago, one of our daughter’s best friends noticed the scars on my shoulder and front of my arm. I saw her eyes fix on me, and hoped to myself that she wouldn’t ask what happened. It isn’t that I mind being asked what happened to my shoulder and arm; I don’t. The problem is that reality – the full truth of the answer – isn’t exactly 6-year-old-friendly. With her mom right beside her, this sweet girl asked. I gave a general response about it being from an injury many years ago. But, she was not satisfied with that response. I then told her someone made a mean choice and hurt me. Often, children who ask are content with this response and their questions stop. Not with this one. She wanted to know exactly what happened to me.

Children look at life with awe and wonder, their little hearts and minds filled with big dreams. Each of the tiny humans in our house has their own reality of life. Mallory’s is analytical, reasonable and simple. Logan’s reality is wrapped in her emotions, how she feels changes her outlook from day to day. Bentley’s reality is, well….not real. Ha. Her reality is centered on what is happening in her own head; imaginative and greater than life could ever offer. Little man Corban’s reality is that each day is a fun game of hockey or basketball.

My reality as a child was pretty common. I believed all people were good and kind and wanted to help each other; that anything was possible. Although, from an early age all I really wanted was to meet Prince Charming and ride away on the beautiful white horse toward a happily ever after; very Cinderella-like.

Boy was I in for a surprise. Life’s big realities came early. Starting in my sophomore of high school, I was thrown into a fire, and it was hot. The flames of suicide, cancer, death, sadness, anger, confusion, violence, tragedy, physical destruction and rebuilding burned up any of the naïve dreams I held as a child.

As best we can, Patrick and I want to let our kids enjoy their big dreams and childhood realities for as long as possible. However, releasing my book Over My Shoulder will require us to reveal some not-so-kid-friendly details of my life to our daughters and son sooner than we might prefer. We cannot risk them hearing about these things from friends at school before we get the choice of how to specifically package the information for each of our children individually.

We would much rather our kids never need to know about or encounter any of this stuff; keeping their hearts and minds pure and innocent. Life’s realities can bring big reactions and big feelings. Keeping them in the dark about the negative things in life feels like the safest option, the easiest option. But, accomplishing big dreams doesn’t happen by simply avoiding big realities. Perhaps, instead of fearing that their tender hearts will be broken with my story, we have an opportunity. Our hope is that with careful packaging, wrapping and delivery of this part of my reality will allow us to plant seeds of courage, resilience and perseverance. Hopefully, appropriate preparation of their hearts and minds will help them to meet life’s realities without being overcome, and we can continue to say…”Dream big, little one”.

And the little girl who asked – I told her that I’m OK, and what happened to me is a conversation to have with her mommy.

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