Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.
A couple weeks ago my second grader came home all excited because being in a new classroom meant a big new class library with lots of new books to read. He was particularly excited about a book series he discovered called I Survived. He told me all about the book he was already reading: I Survived the Japanese Tsunami 2011. He then rattled off the other books he already had lined up in his head: The Great Chicago Fire, the Titanic and the book he wanted to read next, which he called “September Something”. Hearing that, my heart sank. And I panicked.
I told him it all sounded very interesting but that he couldn’t read the September 11 book until his dad and I talked to him about it first. To which he replied: “Okay mom, but now that makes me want to read it even more.”
I ordered the book and specifically sought a couple of my Munger friends with similar aged kids to ask for advice. After the initial shock I realized that my husband and I should approach it like any other news or important information about the past: Tell the truth but only offer as much information as he asks for.
Because of our son’s developing fear of flying we left out any graphic details and replaced the words “terrorists” and “hijacking”, with “bad guys who had some planes”. But we talked about everything else. We gave him just the most basic facts (not shying away from the fact that planes crashed into buildings which fell down and thousands of people died, but not adding any color). Then we asked him if he had any questions. Turns out there weren’t that many, at least for the time being. To him hearing about things that happened in 2001 is equivalent to hearing about Poland, Pompeii or Pearl Harbor, ancient history.
It’s easy for me to forget how important Pompeii or Pearl Harbor felt to people who were alive at that time, because I wasn’t there. September 11 is shocking to me specifically because I remember it so well. I remember every single detail of that day, as I’m sure you all do too. We also moved to New York City a few years later and lived there during the end of the lengthy demolition and during the construction of the memorial. We attended the memorial during its opening week. But obviously my son wasn’t alive for any of that and so it seems more remote to him.
Most importantly, what this is all about is my strong desire to protect my babies from everything evil. And I’m sure you have that same desire. But we have to remember that is not our job. Our job is to prepare our children on how to seek and digest this kind of information.
It is very important to my husband and me that we are the ones who our children hear about difficult things from first. We trust our children’s teachers, after all they have been trained to convey information to young, open minds, but we still want to be able to set the tone and framework in which they receive it. In the end, it is our strongest desire for our children to seek the truth and love the Lord. Sometimes that requires us to initiate uncomfortable conversations with our children that we would rather not have.
It helped me tremendously to talk to my Munger friends prior to having this conversation so if there is anything you are struggling to talk to your children about, reach out, as always we are here for you.