Alice Seuffert is a Minnesota mom, wife, education researcher, food blogger at Dining with Alice and the Kitchen Star on the television show, Twin Cities Live. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. A version of “It’s OK to Eat Lucky Charms for Dinner” was originally published on Dining with Alice.
My news feed filled with details of the tragedy, the headline snapshot cold and clear.
I knew everything in just the few words they gave me.
I’ve been here before. We’ve talked about this.
We, as in me, myself, and I. We’ve talked about not reading these news articles. We’ve talked about shutting the TV off when the story is just too much.
Too tragic. Too real. Too unjust.
As moms, we are given an abundance of resources when it comes to how, when, and why we expose our kids to media. We set dates for introduction, we set time limits, give our kids reward media time. We even learn about how to talk to our kids when media is scary.
But media depicting the frightening world we live in can be overwhelming for us as parents, too.
I missed the parenting lesson on how to process news stories that hit too close to home. I didn’t get the memo about how, when you become a mom, you put all those tragic news stories, those real life horrific events through your own family’s filter.
You think about the parents and the children. Then, you think about your life and your children.
The Florida newspaper headline appeared in my newsfeed: Police: Girl, 5, dead after father drops her from Sunshine Skyway approach.
The child, a girl, the same age as my own daughter, strewn into the ocean and gone.
Over and over the headline kept appearing in my news feed because my college friends from across the country were sharing and commenting. Silently, I scrolled through their reflections.
Then another headline from the newspaper emerged in my newsfeed.
The newspaper reported, Eckerd College students found girl, 5, who was dropped off bridge by father.
My sweaty fingers hovered over the keyboard in anticipation. I wanted answers about why she was murdered by her father. Click and I was gone—sucked in by the connection of a daughter the same age, I couldn’t help but read on.
Hunched over my computer at work, I hid my face from coworkers. I ugly cried. My hand, covering my mouth as I read, was wet from the tears that fell with each sentence. My chest moved heavy and deep, like on those cold Minnesota days where you can barely breathe, I slowly exhaled through my hand.
My husband and I met at Eckerd College. Back then, he was a member of the Search and Rescue Team. We used to fish under that Sunshine Skyway Bridge. But the biggest connection—the part that made me stumble—is that we have a five-year-old daughter.
I read the emotionless words that mater-of-factly detailed how her father threw her little body over the bridge. I closed my eyes and pictured that Florida sunshine and beach air blowing on her face. I thought about her innocence, how she probably liked singing along to Frozen, playing princess and eating chocolate cupcakes covered in sprinkle frosting.
I tried to make sense of the tragedy, but you can’t make sense of a tragedy; that’s why they call it a tragedy.
But I can be grateful. I can feel lucky. I can squeeze my babies the minute I see them and not let go.
After work, I picked up groceries and sat in my dusty minivan in the school parking lot to gain composure and clean up my face before I saw her. I smiled at her across the schoolyard. “Keep it together,” I told myself as she ran to me. Her rainbow shirt squeezing me as tight as I held her, I stopped and took a deep breath of her hair filled with the smell of playdough and sloppy joes. I didn’t let her go until she released me.
After reading about this most recent horrific news story, I returned home and unloaded my grocery bag with cereal. My husband had already plated dinner, and I said, “No, we’re having Lucky Charms tonight.”
When my head comes above water after these kinds of articles or TV programs that hit too close-to-home, I buy Lucky Charms for dinner. It’s oddly emerged as a comfort food for me. Sure I love those little marshmallows. But—in a weird way—I recognize just how lucky I am when my family does something fun, like eat cereal for dinner.
My husband looked at my swollen red eyes and knew; he saw the story, too, that day. With just that look he knew. No other words were exchanged; he just reached out and hugged me. I just stood there, exhausted from the emotional pain of reading and processing the story. The only noise was from my winter coat squishing under his embrace. I stood there and just cried. I cried for that baby girl. I cried for the unreasonableness of it all. I cried because I had my baby girl.
We are lucky.
Just steps away from the dinner table, in the kitchen, we stood there holding each other out of view of the kids. Just comforting each other thinking about those brave rescuers, that vibrant girl and the irreplaceable life that was lost. And then we felt our girl, the one who colors on walls, always picks the sprinkled donut and knows every word to “Let It Go.” We were unaware she even knew what was going on, but she was there hugging us, too. Her little girl arms wrapped around our legs, she just stood there hugging us. No words, but she was there.
It’s okay to eat Lucky Charms for dinner.
It’s okay to not know how to process the evil and tragedy that exists in our world.
It’s okay to run these stories through our family filter because then we truly know how very lucky we are.
Photo credit: “Lucky Charms” by Sarah Mahala Photography is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.