“Are witches real?” she asked me, her mother, the one who is supposed to know all the things and also because she’s too young to Google it. And, of course, I said no. I made a good argument about it too, making sure to tell her that I’ve been alive for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a witch. They are make believe for the fun of a story and take it from me you’re safe and sound in this house surrounded by mysterious trees that have just shed all of their leaves, under a moonlit sky with the coyotes howling in the distance.
She listened intently with a concerned look and then nodded her head and quietly said “ok.” And then she decided that she’d better make a “No witches allowed” sign to hang on all of our doors, you know, just in case.
My daughter Edie is a soul who feels everything a little bit deeper than most. She cries out of excitement and sentiment and also, just today when I picked her up from school, she cried as she reported that a kid in school said no one should like pineapple on their pizza but she does like pineapple on her pizza and kids shouldn’t call out other kids that way. She’s cried over injustices like that, and out of the sheer cuteness about the new baby kittens or the bottle calves and just yesterday over the fact that her birthday is only 23 days away, but so far in her short life, except for her brief stint truly fearing hot lava, I’ve rarely seen her cry out of fear.
And while I haven’t heard much about the witches lately, Edie’s become worried about something else, something I’m having a hard time explaining away with my magic motherly logic.
Edie’s worried about war.
It comes up between the bedtime book and the snuggle, when I turn the lights out and it becomes quiet and no math problem she’s working out in her head, or spelling word she’s visualizing or song that I can sing can help quiet it. She saw it on TV somewhere, probably just in passing, likely images of what’s happening in Ukraine mixed with the little she knows about history and the way humans move through this world, sometimes hurting one another beyond comprehension. And so she’s trying to comprehend.
And, honestly, aren’t we all.
I answer her worries the best I can in those quiet moments with something like, “Kids don’t have to worry about things like this. That’s why you have parents and grownups. You’re safe here, with us, at the ranch. We’re here to keep you safe.”
I wish I could tell her that war is like witches and dragons and ogres, dark fiction made up to give us the spooks. But I can’t. And if I’m being honest, I’m scared too when I look out at the world and see its darkness, understanding there are so many things out of our control, wondering too, what would I do, if I no longer felt safe in my own home?
“But is everyone in the world safe tonight?” she asks me as and she snuggles into the crook in my arm.
How do I answer that one? Even if war were nothing but a made up dark chapter in a fairytale, the answer to this question is most certainly no. No, not everyone has a warm bed to sleep in. Not every kid is loved and snuggled and read three books and fed a warm supper. Not everyone knows where they are going to sleep tonight or if they’re safe in their home.
There’s no manual for this and I’m searching for a 6-year-old version of the truth, one that helps my child understand gratitude and compassion, but doesn’t scare her or make her feel helpless.
I tell her we can help where we can. We can write down our worries. We can say a quiet prayer. We can love one another. We can plan her birthday party and be kind and cook each others supper and when it’s dark and it’s past our bedtime and we’ve had a couple popsicles and the world is feeling a little off kilter we need to remember that we have each other and for now that has to be enough…
Jessie, I’ve been reading your column for several years and thoroughly enjoy it — and now you have your blog that always gets me laughing at some point. As a Grand Forks County farm girl transplanted to Door County Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan I get a real back home treat listening to your down to earth style and sentiments — especially the occasional “that pissed me off” or “SHIT.” I brought that vocabulary and accent with me to Wi. and almost 50 years later I’m still raising eyebrows. LOL
I loved your conversation you had with your daughter about the fear of war and safety. You did a beautiful job explaining to her she is safe. I grew up 4th generation on a wheat farm and after a trip to Medora as a little girl I hoped my dad would pick up and move west so we could be ranchers with cattle, mountains and horses. We had livestock but NOT like western N.D. where ranchers lived on horseback and not a John Deere. But I always knew I was loved and I was safe and that’s what you give your daughter regardless of the location or the ground she is walking on.
I hope your winter is not too harsh (good luck on that but it’s nice for me to hope for you). We have much milder winters in eastern Wi. though alot more snow than N.D. My mother always said, “Wi. snow comes down straight, N.D. snow blows in sideways.” Can’t say I ever missed the weather but there is a sweetness and a humble quality that N.Dakotans have that can’t be matched.
Take care and you stay safe too,
Helen Potier Sturgeon Bay, Wi.
Say — you’ve mentioned UND and your mother in connection with Grand Forks? You could do a story on how diversified N.D. is. Most people I know have absolutely no idea what N.D. offers and how different the terrain is. Boring story? Maybe — it would be quite the writer’s challenge.
Hi Jesse, it’s me again, your Grandad’s step-sister Patti Jacobs.
I think all adults in the world, when making big decisions about war, should have to take Edie’s concerns into account. I’m serious. I think it’s way too easy for some in charge to not even for a minute, think of the children and what they go through when they watch the awful things that go on in the world. I grew up so afraid of nuclear disaster. All the families in our area attended a film strip and presentation about how to protect ourselves in the case of nuclear war.Afterwards, I was laying awake at night, trying to figure out which doors could be used up against an outside wall , with dirt thrown over the top, to protect our family of 6 (at that time), as we were instructed, knowing we could never afford and underground shelter all stocked for weeks after. You did such a beautiful job of helping her with her concerns. The world will be a better place because of your caring parenting and people like Edie, who think deeply, and really care about our world.
Jessie, I am a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather and I to wonder what the world is coming to. I can relate to your columns and when you get down here to our area I want to see your show. We are going to the Mylo Hatzebuhler dinner show in Hankinson this saturday night. He is a hoot. Stay safe, Brad Glarum Mooreton, N.D.
You can always encourage her to say a little prayer cuz stopping war is above parental pay grade!! 🙂