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Veeder: Maybe gratitude is the only prayer

"Coming Home" columnist Jessie Veeder tries to balance her best attempt at telling the truth to her young children while also realizing that the truth can be dark and complicated to explain.

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Rosie was annoyed to learn that kids can't adopt kids.
Jessie Veeder / The Forum

WATFORD CITY, N.D. — This week Rosie, my 4-year-old, informed me that she wants a baby brother.

It’s not the first time it’s come up, but she’s been deep into being a mother to four to six of her own dolly children every day, so it’s on her mind.

When I tried to explain to her that getting a baby brother isn’t as easy as it sounds, her big blue eyes stared straight into my soul and she simply replied, “Yes it is. You just have to wish for it.” And my heart melted and ran out my eyes a bit.

And then she patted my tummy and told me it already looked like I had a baby in there anyway, and that fixed that.

Oh parenthood, how swiftly the tables turn…

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Anyway, if it were that simple, the girl would have had her baby brother a couple years ago. I have a hunch there’s been plenty of wishing about that around here.

And who would have the heart to tell her she’s wrong? The wish. The prayer. These two little girls that keep us fully on our toes, we certainly wished for them. On every 11:11. On every fallen star. On every blown-out birthday candle or eyelash or ladybug.

Don’t call me out now. The prayers were there, too. But prayers aren’t wishes, and who can really say how they’re answered. It’s hard to explain the difference between the two to a child.

Last night, my 6-year-old, Edie, and I were listening to a story about a female Irish pirate who ruled the seas in the 1500s. I was expecting a more child-ready version of the story we picked before bed, but we were deep in when I realized they weren’t holding back on the facts. To help her people, she robbed others. Invaders in her country killed men, women and children. They imprisoned her family and suddenly, at 8:30 p.m., it was too late — the story was told and my daughter had questions.

“This happened hundreds of years ago,” I scrambled to fend off the nightmares, knowing full well what I was going to say next was a lie to protect her. “We don’t do things like that to each other anymore.”

Will there ever be a time when we can say this to our children and truly believe it, to know it to be true?

And so I’m struggling a bit here as a mom of two little girls starting to open their hearts to a world full of contradictions and injustices and who are beginning to demand explanations. My first instinct is to protect them. They’re so fresh. So innocent. And though I always come back to giving them my best try at the truth, leave it to a child to remind us how complicated the truth can actually be.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m trying to say here except that my heart has been aching for the news coming through on the screens and airwaves. The narrative, the complicated story about humans, no matter the years, it doesn’t seem to change. We can be as brutal as we can be nurturing. As brave as we are terrified. As virtuous as we are malicious. In the name of power. In the name of religion. In the name of country. Even, and maybe the most complicated of all, in the name of love.

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Because what wouldn’t I do to protect my children if the bombs were going off on the other side of these hills? What wouldn’t I do…

So what am I doing? I don’t know.

As for Rosie? Well, she’s annoyed to learn that kids can’t adopt kids. She would be really good at diaper-changing. I squeeze her tight to my chest, she asks me why I’m smooshing her face and if I can let her go now. Her baby’s crying. I kiss her cheek, she wipes it off and I say a prayer of gratitude and wonder, maybe, if that might be the only prayer…

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Jessie Veeder, "Coming Home" columnist.
Contributed / Jessie Veeder

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.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTAFAMILYFAITH
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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