A few years ago we were nearly robbed. I say nearly because we stopped them at the perimeter. My wife heard a banging, looked out the second-story window, and saw two young men standing in our front garden about to crawl through a hole in the fence. She yelled some expletives and they ran off.
It spooked us all, particularly my daughter, who had a lot of questions, which forced me to confront my own demons about the whole thing.
As a parent, I try to avoid the good-guys-vs-bad-guys thing, something that’s pretty rampant in cartoons. Instead, I point out cause and effect: there’s a reason Evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz lives alone in his lair obsessively plotting to destroy the Tri-State Area. Once you figure out that reason, Dr. Doofenshmirtz becomes a lot less scary.
It’s an easy enough philosophy to apply to cartoons, but it had me in a bind trying to gently explain why someone would rob us.
“Sometimes people see things we have that they themselves don’t have and that they want, and since they don’t have them and don’t think they can get them in other ways, they try to take them from us.”
Man, it’d be a lot easier just to peg these people as bad guys.
But I kept working at it, fielding the barrage of WHY questions my daughter hurled at me like gobs of clay, slowly sculpting our answer. It took some time, but together we got there.
I knew we had arrived because, as my mind rifled through my own list of enemies, from shitty roommates to Facebook foes to parking space thieves to childhood bullies, my daughter stared out the window down into the garden where muddy workboots had trampled our flowers.
And then she looked up at me with no fear left in her face, just like she does after I explain away her bad dreams. She looked at me for a few seconds longer, searching my face like a crime scene, and then she went back to playing.