Our daughter has a lot of questions lately. Things are shifting, ever-shifting around her and she is trying to get her bearings. Images of caskets. Unattended teddy bears. Flags at half-mast. We have risen to her questions about Newtown in the most age-appropriate way that we know how, as most parents and caregivers have. We make our way in through compassion as we touch on issues that feel too complex for us to grasp. It’s excruciating to witness a little more of her innocence slip away with every tiny bit of information shared. A new layer of bark on the tender sapling that she is.

And of course, it must be said that every chance I get to hold her, I do, overwhelmed with gratitude that I still have this very moment.

It’s our seemingly contradictory role as her parents to meet her needs with love and presence and then stand back to allow her independence and interdependence to flourish. To be her safe place to land as well as her spring board from which to soar.

We are trying to allow our own grief and vulnerability to hold some space and not attach too much to it when the gears shift suddenly to another topic, like Santa.

Tonight will likely mark her last visit to see him with the true belief of his existence in her heart. Her questions have become far more sophisticated, that yawning space between middle childhood and adolescence starting to close. Though, for one last year, her healthy skepticism has yielded to her hopeful belief in magic.

In school, the debate about Santa rages on: the Cynics who admonish those who still believe for being naïve vs the Skeptics who want to understand the truth (even as they have fear, doubts and apprehensions).

Fertile ground for debates of the future.

As the tragedy in Newtown is bound to become further politicized in the dark days ahead, it’s my hope that we can move from cynicism toward skepticism and from there, towards contribution. As ever, the way in is through compassion.