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Veeder: Edie's worried and I don't know what to say

"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," columnist Jessie Veeder writes.

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Jessie Veeder, "Coming Home" columnist.
Contributed / Jessie Veeder
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WATFORD CITY, N.D. — My daughter Edie is a little scared of witches. Well, she wasn’t really until recently when a friend of hers came over and started telling witch stories convincingly enough that she began to wonder if maybe he wasn’t as full of beans as she originally thought. Plus, it was past her bedtime, it was dark and she had a couple popsicles. The world was feeling a little off kilter, and so she came to me.

“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. 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. However, 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.

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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. I wonder 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.

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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 other's supper. 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. For now, that has to be enough.


READ MORE OF JESSIE'S COMING HOME COLUMNS

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Greetings from the ranch in western North Dakota and thank you so much for reading. If you're interested in more stories and reflections on rural living, its characters, heartbreaks, triumphs, absurdity and what it means to live, love and parent in the middle of nowhere, check out more of my Coming Home columns below. As always, I love to hear from you! Get in touch at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTAFAMILY
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.
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