Last week, someone broke into our house while we were all in bed and stole a number of our possessions. Guy and Lucas discovered the damage and missing items when they went downstairs the next morning. They came straight back upstairs and the children and I huddled on the bed while I called the police and Guy had a good look around the house to make sure there was no one still in it.
During the day, we had visits from police, forensics, a locksmith and a recovery truck, which towed away our car. Friends and neighbours dropped in to make sure we were OK, to lend us money (both our wallets were gone) and a double pushchair. The next day, Lucas and Guy found a bag containing some of our stuff – it had been hidden under Lucas’s slide overnight. I collected Lucas from nursery in our friends’ pushchair while Guy went to the garage to sort out getting our car back. We spent hours on the phone to banks, credit card companies, police, insurance companies and the garage.
It would have been impossible to hide what had happened from Lucas – he is a bright and perceptive little boy, but even if he wasn’t, the influx of visitors and disappearance of our car and buggy would have been difficult to miss. Understandably, he was just as unsettled as we were about the experience. I think it hit him as we watched the car being towed away – he kept asking, “Why is that man taking our car away? Why can we not get in our car?”
This is the first time we have had to explain something quite difficult to Lucas – something we don’t actually understand ourselves. Why did someone break into our house and take our things? How can we reassure Lucas without dismissing his concerns? How can we explain without scaring him?
We were put on the spot with his questions, and when you’re two, you need immediate answers, so we didn’t get a chance to discuss how to respond. Luckily, we both instinctively went for honesty: “A nasty man came into our house and took some of our things. But it’s OK now because the police and locksmith have come to make sure we are safe.” Lucas seemed to accept this without too much concern, only asking “Why did the nasty man do that?”
Until later that day, when he asked for his crocodile gloves, which were in a bag of handknitted hats and mittens that the burglar had taken. We gently explained that he could not have them, because they had been taken, but that we would buy some more. He was a bit upset and asked again why the nasty man had done that, but seemed to be OK.
Until a few days later, when he asked whether the nasty man was going to come and take his toys. And when we were going to get his feet measured, and he said, “What if the nasty man has taken the shoes with the aeroplanes on?” And when he kept asking what had happened when the nasty man came into our house. And said he didn’t want the nasty man to come back.
When you have to explain stuff you don’t even understand, you realise how much of parenting is simply winging it and hoping for the best.