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Jul 2 2014

How Do I Tell My Daughter That The Missing Israeli Teens Were Killed?

By at 1:17 pm

Israeli-desert

It’s been two whole days. Two days and I still haven’t told my daughter.

When my daughter was little, I used to worry that she didn’t have an appropriate sense of life and death–that she might do something stupid, even if I told her it was dangerous, because she didn’t realize what “dangerous” could mean. The first time she asked me about death, I grabbed the opportunity to try to reinforce the idea that death is serious and final–only realizing later that I had neglected any mention of a soul that lives on after the body, or any religious perspectives one might think a believing Jew should be teaching her child. It was so important to me that she grasp the great divide between life and death, I forgot that I believe in a continuum.

I say “when my daughter was little,” but she’s 8 now–is that still little? I don’t know. I still don’t think she grasps the possible consequences of “danger” as fully as I’d like her to. The other day I mentioned that some friends of ours are finally on the verge of aliyah, after putting their plans on hold years ago, because the father was hit by a bus. (I couldn’t bring myself to say “bus”; I told her he was hit by a car. I think that’s the biggest–maybe only–lie I’ve ever told any of my children.) Her big question? “Did he have to go to the emergency room?”

I’m grateful that she feels so safe and secure that the worst she can imagine happening to someone hit by a car is that he has to go to the emergency room.

I feel like a failure as a parent that she is so naïve that the worst she can imagine happening to someone hit by a car is that he has to go to the emergency room.

I’m paralyzed at the thought of telling her about the boys, because I want her to understand what happened to them and have the chance to be a part of the nation at this moment in its history, but I don’t want her to be scared.

I’m paralyzed at the thought of telling her about the boys, because she’s my little girl and should never have to face any unpleasantness, or even know it exists, but she’s 8 and I don’t know where the line is.

I wonder what possessed me to tell her about the kidnappings in the first place.

I wish I hadn’t told her, because then I wouldn’t feel like now I have to tell her the boys were found but won’t ever be going home again.

I wish I had talked to her about it more, beyond the one brief conversation that first Friday night, when I suddenly decided to print their pictures and show her and sit and say tehillim (Psalms) together after I lit candles. It was a powerful conversation. I was so pleased that she asked why anyone would kidnap these boys, and so petrified under the pressure to respond with the right degrees of honesty and gravity for her age. And I think I handled it relatively well, but it was the only conversation. Once, she asked me if they were found yet, and I told her no.

I hope she asks again, so I can stop looking for “the right moment” to tell her.

I hope she never asks, and I never have to tell her.

I hope I never meet the parents of the three murdered boys, and have to face up to what a wimp I am. They lost their sons, and I’m busy fretting over how to tell my daughter about their loss. I know that my dilemma pales in comparison to their pain. My dilemma shields me from thinking enough about their pain for it to shatter me like it must be shattering them. Yes, I’m a wimp. I can’t face others’ pain, and I can’t handle the thought of my children facing it, either.

I don’t want my children to ever know that there are real bad guys, who do real bad things. They play games, and talk about bad guys, but it’s never clear to me what bad things they think “bad guys” do. They certainly don’t seem to realize there might be anyone in the world who would try to kill anyone who wasn’t “a bad guy.”

But they’re going to have to know eventually, and I’m going to have to tell them.

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