I actually wrote this in February, but never posted it. But with the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I thought it was appropriate to post today.
Myles is my 6 year-old son. I often refer to him as the boychild. He is smart and funny and full of energy. He’s also a deep thinker and tends to be a little anxious. So when he asks me about God and Jesus or where our bodies go when we die or how babies get out of mommies’ bellies, I’m not surprised. There’s a lot going on in that brain of his and when he asks tough questions, I have answers. Until today.
Sydney and I had just gotten home from Girl Scouts. As I closed the door, I could hear the boys upstairs but instead of going up there, I headed for the kitchen. I had just put my keys down when I heard Myles crying. Myles is the sensitive one, so crying is pretty much the norm for him. He gets his feelings hurt pretty easily. “What is it, Son?” I asked, trying to hide my exasperation. I was prepared for “Jude took my car” or “Daddy said I had to go to bed”. Instead, he said, “Sometimes I just get scared of dying.” Wait, what?
Now, this isn’t the first time he’s talked about death. A couple of years ago (coincidentally, the night before he was going under general anesthesia for some dental work), he asked me about dying. He has asked when I’m going to die, when his dad is going to die and what happens to our bodies after we die. We’re good slacker Catholics over here so I have pretty standard answers for those types of questions.
I stopped what I was doing and took his hand. We sat on the couch, he climbed in my lap and then he lost it.
“Myles, why are you worried about dying? That’s not going to happen for a very, very long time. What made you think about that anyway?”
“Well, I hurt my finger and Daddy put some stuff on it. I asked him if it was poisonous and he said ‘yes’ and then I just thought about dying and I don’t want to die.”
“Oh, baby boy! That’s not something you need to worry about. As long as you don’t put that stuff in your mouth, you’re not going to die.”
“But what about police officers?”
“What do you mean, what about police officers?”
“What if a police officer kills me?”
My body tensed up and I could feel my heart start to race.
“What are you talking about? Why would a police officer shoot you?” I asked.
“Because they have guns.”
“Yeah, but police officers protect us. They have guns to protect us. A police officer isn’t going to shoot you.”
“But what if it’s on accident?”
I could feel the tears well up in my eyes and I held him close trying to fight back the tears.
“Bud, that is not going to happen. Police officers protect us, they don’t hurt us. A police officer is never going to shoot you. Besides, what’s mom’s job?”
“To protect me”, he said through tears.
“Then I’m never going to let that happen to you.”
“I’m still scared a police will shoot me”, he said. And then he started to cry hysterically.
I spent the next few minutes holding him and talking him down. After a few minutes, he had calmed himself enough that he was ready to brush his teeth. And when he left, I swear I could feel my heart break.
I promised my boychild that a police officer will never shoot him. I promised him that I will always protect him. But it’s a promise I may not be able to keep.
Myles is only 6, so we haven’t talked to him about racism. Don’t get me wrong. He is aware of race but he doesn’t know that there are people that will not like him simply because he has brown skin. And I’m sure there will be people that say I’m doing him a disservice by trying to shield him. But I’m choosing to live in my bubble as long as possible. My boy loves everyone and he’s never met a stranger. He wants to be buddies with every kid he meets. When he finds out that there are people that don’t like him, he’ll be heartbroken.
Now listen, I know what you’re thinking. “Show him good police officers. Take him to the police station to meet the police. Teach him that the police are there to protect him.” I’m way ahead of you. We’ve already done all of this. He knows the police are the good guys. He’s met the police at school, we’ve been to open house at the police station and if he sees a police car with it’s lights on, he will tell you “There must be an emergency!” Oh, and my step-dad is a retired police captain. The police are the good guys at our house. This is not new info.
But what is new info is that there are people that will not like him. For no other reason than the color of his skin. Some of those people may be police officers. And I don’t have an answer for that.