Tuesday, June 18, 2013

May 20 and May 31: The Impact on Silas

I can think of many words that describe the process of watching Silas process the, ah, 'inclement weather,' that we have had in Moore over the course of the past month. The words interesting and heartbreaking are the two that most often come to mind for me. Not a day goes by that he doesn't talk about what has happened or somehow incorporate it into his play. As a psychologist, I know how important it is for him to be able to express his feelings about what has happened, whether through questions, observations, or play, because his feelings are absolutely as valid as mine or anyone else's; I also know that young children typically process the big things in life by playing about them because they aren't mature enough to sit down and talk about them like you and I can. At times I find myself cheering him on a bit, even if silently, because he is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Still, when it happens I sometimes hate to see it, and I hate that it has come to this---games that remind me of the destruction of my own community.

When I look around at what this boy sees everyday, I think, how could he not take notice? How could he not be impacted? I told my friend Sommer that I fear these will be the first memories that his three-year-old mind permanently creates, because the magnitude of what he has experienced with this is truly that big. Our home cannot be accessed without driving directly through ground zero, which is only a few hundred feet away. He sees his parents and all of the adults in his life talking about the tornado, its aftermath, what we were doing, what we were thinking, although fortunately these conversations are becoming less frequent as the adults here are moving on as well. We are not to be blamed for this either; waiting to talk about this until after the children go to bed is absolutely impractical when for a long time it was all we could think about, when we were all engaging in hours and days and weeks of cleanup, when we all get skittish about storms rolling in. The tornado has simply become a new normalcy here, and there is nothing that anybody can do to change that. I realized as I saw the damage for the first time myself that there would be no hiding this from Silas, so he would have to face it like the rest of us, except in a more kid-appropriate way. When normal things like your post office, your pediatrician's office, your bank, your primary gas station, your restaurants, your parks, and parts of your neighborhood are gone, you deserve to know why and not to have it hidden from you.

May 31 didn't help things at all. Everyone was nervous all day long about the forecast for the day, and sure enough another EF-5 tornado did take place on the other side of the metro that evening, resulting in more loss of life. This tornado also spawned smaller ones, at least one of which hit Moore again and caused further damage. Spending yet more time watching the storm chasers and meteorologists on TV was upsetting him, but we had to watch it for our own safety; and when it was time to make our way to the underground shelter next door, we did the best we could and made as good a time as we could of it with eight adults, five children, a dog, and supplies down in a 3x8 foot cement hole in the ground for 45 minutes. I couldn't help thinking the whole time though, this does nothing but solidify the impact of this season on all of us, including our beloved children.

 The crazy clouds before the May 31 storm. Never a good sign!
 The May 31 storm making its way into the metro. The sky was so dark and foreboding that I lost my appetite during dinner. This is extraordinarily dark for this time of day; you can see some of the lighter shades of sky just above those houses to the right. 

 Six inches of rain fell that night, and BJ joked that we suddenly had lakefront property.

Silas has shown BJ and me that he is thinking about the tornadoes in practically a hundred ways. He becomes visibly nervous when it storms, and he refuses to sleep in his own room if it storms at night. When the thunder becomes loud enough during a storm at any time, he announces that "It's time to go to the cellar now!" Not only does he continue to point out obvious signs of the tornado's damage as we drive about town (such as, "That car got crushed by the tornado."), but he also sees the tornado's 'damage' in things that truly have nothing to do with the tornado (such as he bends over and picks up a jagged rock out of the street and says, "Mommy, this rock got broken. The tornado did that to it.") At least once a day I hear him tell his construction vehicles to take quick cover because a tornado is coming; I may interject as the vehicles are hiding under curtains and ask, "Is the tornado finished yet?" and he may reply, "Yeah, but here comes another one!" His lifetime aspirations now include driving various construction vehicles (namely a feller buncher) so that he can assist with clean-up in the park that he misses. And when he sees someone walking in the direction of the park as we are driving by, he excitedly asks if they are going to play in the park. We always tell him that the park is still broken and can't be played in, and it is obvious to us that he had hoped that maybe somebody had fixed it all up while we had gone about our day.

I love my little three-year-old boy and I'm so proud of him as he makes sense of this reality in his beautiful little mind. They say that adversity makes people stronger and wiser, so by that adage our little Silas, and every comprehending child in Moore (which doesn't seem to include George, who has been unperturbed by all of this), will be wise beyond their years. A bright future awaits us!

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