As parents, we often try to make childhood magical for our little ones, presenting the world around us as a nearly flawless wonderland.

We edit out most of the problems.  And, for the most part, this is a correct thing to do – my 5 and 7 year olds would not be able to begin processing what is presented in just one segment of the Chicago newscast, let alone global problems.  They don’t need to know the full reasons we go through airport security (“Honey, your stuffed Nemo is going to go on a fun ride through this machine, just to make sure he’s ready to fly”) or why they have those creepy lock-down drills at school (lordy, I’m going to need major help explaining those some day!).

Of course, my children’s lives have not been all fields of daisies – they’ve experienced some very deep and painful losses that have shaken their souls.  But, like most parents, we don’t want our children to experience more pain than is necessary.  So we edit.  Edit, edit, edit.

But what happens when they get a peek around our edits?

Recently, on a gloriously warm and sunny spring day, we took our girls into the city to see the Broadway musical “Aladdin.”  The birds were chirping, the flowers were in bloom – even the parking garage had just been washed down, for heaven’s sake.  And we began our walk toward an overly ornate theater where we’d gorge ourselves on 2.5 hours of singing and dancing and gorgeous people (I was not disgusted at Aladdin’s 8-pack).  We’d be whisked away into a story of fairy-tale love and happiness.  This day could be considered nearly perfect in the eyes of a child.

Now, keep in mind, this was not our first trip to the city.  We’ve been countless times before.  But, on this outing, my 7-year-old seemed more alert… perhaps because she’s no longer overwhelmed and overstimulated by the city.

So, as we happily frolicked down the glittering city sidewalks toward our musical oasis, there was a wrinkle in our edited world.  More like a window revealing reality.  A homeless man, asking for money.  Again, my children have walked past this sort of situation before, but this time, my 7-year-old took note.

She took in his alarming appearance.  She took in the almost incomprehensible way in which he spoke.  Her sparkling, perfect eyes took it all in.  Her young, innocent mind was processing it all.

She was seeing past the edits.

As we continued down the block, it seemed as if the sunshine became shaded exactly at that moment and suddenly we found ourselves walking in the shadow of the buildings, shivering as a cold spring wind came at us.  We no longer were on the sunny side of the street.  Or the sunny side of life.

“Momma?  What was that man doing?  Why did he look like that?  Why did he sound like that?  Why is he like that?”  She continued to whisper question after question, as I answered them in a fully unedited way.  Because she’d seen reality.  And I believe it’d be irresponsible of me to make up some fairy-tale to brush that reality out of her mind.

On the next block, we passed an alcove filled with homeless people laying in sleeping bags.  One man silently watched our every move.  My daughter grasped my hand harder and latched onto my arm.  She asked nothing.  And then POOF! Right in front of us was the marquee for the theater, all aglow with lights and exuding pure fairy-tale happiness.  So I ushered the girls up to snap their picture under the “Aladdin” banner, and we were whisked away into fantasy land.

(Let me take this moment to point out the ironic: that “Aladdin” is the story of a homeless man who rises to royalty.  Because that happens all the time – or, at least, as often as people finding magic genies in lamps.)

It wasn’t until many hours later, at bedtime, that it all came up again.

My sweet child’s face suddenly was stricken with shock and concern, and she started crying.  And kept crying.  We talked at length about homelessness, its many forms and its many different types of people, and the little things we could do as a family to do our part to help alleviate a very small part of the homeless people’s discomfort and hunger.  We made plans to look into opportunities at the local homeless shelter organization and the regional food pantry the very next day.

And still, she cried.  After bedtime at one point, she came down the stairs and said she felt sick.  This sweet child very literally was making herself sick with worry.

It was then that I explained to her that she cannot carry the weight of this huge problem on her little shoulders – it is not for her to try to solve alone.  I talked her through breathing exercises (“deep breath in, then breathe out your worry, over and over until you feel calm”) and, being a praying family, I suggested a few prayers she could say.

So this was my child’s peek beyond the edits.  Her heart was broken.  My heart was shaken that the veil of childhood is being lifted.

But I was so proud of my child’s deep, personal response to this problem revealed to her.  As hard as it is to see that utopian bubble that has enveloped her begin to melt away, I realized she’s ready to start seeing some of these things.

Because her heart cares.  And her soul loves deeply and freely.  Combine these things with gaining understanding and having appropriate exposure, and she will grow up well equipped to make a true difference in this far from perfect world.  She will help in that world beyond the edits.