Kim Bongiorno is an author, freelance writer, and blogger. Best known for her popular blog LetMeStartBySaying and Facebook Page, she has also been published in three books, all while writing for sites such as InThePowderRoom, The Huffington Post and others. Kim lives in New Jersey with her handsome husband and two charmingly loud kids.

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Conversations I Don’t Want to Have With My Kids

It wasn’t the first break-in that has ever happened.

It won’t be the last.

But this one has struck a nerve.

On Friday, June 21st, a man broke into a suburban Millburn, New Jersey home, while a mom sat on the couch with her 3yo daughter, quietly watching Olivia as her toddler napped upstairs.

Instead of just running back out when he saw them, or threatening the woman and child to stay where they were as he robbed the house, he beat her. Over and over again, in front of her horrified little girl. Punched her, kicked her, threw her down the stairs, then left.

The nanny cam caught it all.

The woman, who was composed throughout the crime in order to keep her daughter calm, shared that video with the police, the local press, the world.

She wanted that man found so he couldn’t hurt anyone else, couldn’t scare anyone else.

A combination of her bravery, his violence, and the sight of that little girl frozen on the couch cannot be ignored.

I faced a lot of hard things in my childhood, in my life. I have been, in careful, thoughtful ways, letting my kids know that not everyone in the world is kind and good.

Yes, the kind and good absolutely outnumber the troubled, the desperate, the bad, but that doesn’t mean we can count on never facing it.

This week I started a series of Very Important Conversations with my kids.

Sure, we have gone over our address, telephone numbers, 911, what to do if a stranger approaches them in public.

But what if that stranger comes into our home?

I do not want to say the words, “If a stranger breaks in and starts to hurt mommy…” to my kids. Yet I have to.

I do not want to say the words, “If I’m in my office and a stranger breaks in the door where you are playing…” to my kids. Yet I need to.

I do not want to say the words, “Now you practice on me. I’ll pretend I’m the stranger grabbing you after he broke in…” to my kids. Yet I must.

My job as their mother is to fill their lives with love, peace, and comfort, while preparing them for a world that can hate, confuse, and hurt.

During the day I will calmly give these lessons to my kids to prepare them for the unknown.

At night I will let the tears fall onto my pillows because I can’t always stand between them and what I’m preparing them for.

In the times in between I will continue living with the hope that they will be mostly safe in the world — and at home. I will have faith that when they are hurt, they will know that the hurt was only a temporary, fleeting moment in a long, beautiful life.

Difficult conversations with kids by Kim Bongiorno @LetMeStart on @InThePowderRoom #violence #crime #parenting


How old are your kids, and are you having these conversations with them yet?

Did the Millburn attack affect you in any way?

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Comments (19)

  1. Pingback: Summing Up My Week… (06/30/13-07/07/13) | Let Me Start By Saying…

  2. Bethany Thies 07/02/2013 at 8:29 pm

    There was something so unbelievably rattling about this case. And something so unbelievably heroic about the mother. I haven’t yet had these conversations, but, you’re right. I need to. I don’t want them to live in constant fear, but, being aware and prepared is a gift I can give them. An important piece, Kim.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/02/2013 at 9:17 pm

      I think there is a way to make them away and safe without making them fearful. I always feel better when I have ‘tools’ to deal with stuff – it makes me less scared.

  3. Ilene 07/02/2013 at 12:18 pm

    This in particular is not a conversation I had ever thought to have with my kids but such an important one to have. What an awful crime – what an important reminder for us to prepare our kids for things we never want to have to prepare them for.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/02/2013 at 9:16 pm

      Exactly. I never thought of a criminal IN our home. It just…ugh. It’s just an awful awful reality to have to consider.

  4. Molley@A Mother Life 07/02/2013 at 7:00 am

    Wow, I hadn’t heard of the case but it sure is something to be concerned about.
    maybe I better add it to the list of things to talk about. Thanks

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/02/2013 at 9:15 pm

      I’m sorry and you’re welcome. It’s a tough topic, but it does open your eyes to what else we should be thinking about when it comes to preparing our kids.

  5. Kathy at kissing the frog 07/02/2013 at 12:36 am

    The scary conversations are definitely the hardest. We’ve talked and talked, and I don’t know if it’s because I have all boys, but they seem to think it would just be easy to punch someone and get away. It’s frightening to think of how it really goes down and how kids are mostly paralyzed with fear. Thank you for writing this.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/02/2013 at 9:14 pm

      My kids said they’d yell at an intruder to go away. If only the people who do these crimes could be reasoned with like that in the first place…

  6. Patty 07/01/2013 at 11:48 am

    When my children were small, I never recoiled at a stranger approaching them to smile or comment, always encouraging the kids to be polite. Then when two people attempted to kidnap my son when he was 4 at the bygone Danbury Fair in Connecticut, everything changed and those crucial conversations came into play.

    From secret words to teaching them defensive actions, we mapped-out our intense plan of escape, of survival, should the worst happen.

    This horrific assault in Millburn has had me lecturing people, almost getting into arguments, because of the comments I’ve been hearing regarding the presence of a firearm in the home. As a gun owner and firearms instructor, trust me, there is no way that any gun would have prevented that crime, in fact, it very possibly could have brought about fatal consequences for the mother and her children.

    Since this incident,my daughters and their husbands have had more of these important conversations with our grandkids. Life for adults and children, as we had once known it, has changed forever, at home, in school, out in public. We no longer encourage our children to smile at strangers or respond to them when approached. Anyone we don’t know may very well be out to hurt us…is the operative phrase. But, combined with this is the absolute reassurance to our children that we will always do everything in our power to protect them and keep them safe.

    Necessary conversations but sad in that childhood has to be so tarnished by evil.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/01/2013 at 11:12 pm

      It’s hard to find that balance: make them feel comfort, peace, ease while still letting them know they should have certain defensive/survival skills because bad people are out there.
      It’s like me in my car now. I feel like so many people are driving while looking down at their phones, I need to be EXTRA careful while on the road. I can’t control them, but I can be better prepared to respond to the drifters and texters and people behind the wheel not paying attention. I don’t assume I will get hit by a car, but I keep my eyes out, and know what I’d do if it looked like I was about to get hit.

  7. Chi Chi 07/01/2013 at 11:05 am

    As difficult and heartbreaking as it is, it has to happen. I have had this conversation with my older children because they have an infant brother who they will need to protect. We designate secret hiding places and optimal points of escape. They know how to unlock doors and boost themselves up to crawl into the attic/crawl space. They know phone numbers and how to get out in case of a fire. Trust me, it breaks my heart when my nine year old son cries and begs mommy not to talk about it anymore, but I have to do it.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/01/2013 at 11:09 pm

      I showed the kids how to dial 911 on 3 different phones in our home, and explained the rules for getting out of the house in an emergency, even if *I* need help — especially if I need help!

  8. Lucrecer 07/01/2013 at 10:53 am

    Looking at that video was absolutely devastating. I am so deeply disturbed by this. I know I need to have this talk with my kids and I hate it.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/01/2013 at 11:08 pm

      I know lots of women (and men) who simply can’t watch the video. It’s awful, but also important. I just never thought that my kid could witness something like that.

  9. Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli) 07/01/2013 at 9:53 am

    Oh, this hurts my stomach. You’re so right; these conversations are extremely difficult, but necessary. Thank you for the reminder.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/01/2013 at 11:07 pm

      I think all of our tummies ache this week…

  10. HouseTalkN 07/01/2013 at 9:04 am

    This really shook me to the core. My kids range from 8-13 and it makes me nauseous to have this conversation with them, to see the confusion on their faces.
    I have been thinking of and praying for the NJ woman and her children.

    • Kim Bongiorno 07/01/2013 at 11:07 pm

      That age 8-13 is such a sweet, innocent age and you just don’t want them to know yet how icky and bad people can be. It sucks, but we gotta do it.