I was 4 years old when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. I was 7 years old when the Berlin Wall came down. I have absolutely no memory of either event. Partially, I think this was because I was so young and relatively carefree. The other reason, I'm guessing, is because of the protection of my parents.
I've felt that same protectiveness towards my own children. I want to shelter them from all the bad that happens in the world. I would prefer that we never have to have conversations about terrible things, because I wish those terrible things would never happen.
But they do happen, and I can't protect and shield my children from every unpleasant, unwanted thing.
Because of my children's young age, I've been spared many conversations. Bug was not even one year old when the war in Iraq started. He was only 2 years old when the Indian Ocean tsunami occurs. He was only 3 years old when Hurricane Katrina struck.
But now my boys are older. They are more aware.
The first conversation of this nature happened after the earthquake in Haiti. We talked a lot about the earthquake and the people of Haiti. But I didn't let them see any pictures.
Today, I left early enough that there was still no news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on NPR as I drove for work. I didn't hear about the disaster until around 6:30 this morning. There was no way for me to be the one to broach the subject with my children. I was at work and they were at home, getting ready for school.
The moment I got home from work, Bug asked me if I had heard about the tsunami. They had talked about it at school and seen videos of the devastation. He was visibly upset. Monkey wanted to know what Bug was so upset about. And so, after some hesitation, I put both boys on my lap, explained what had happened and showed them pictures and videos of the devastation. They were silent as we watched footage of the waves washing away cars, boats, roads, and homes.
And then we talked.
We talked about how sometimes, bad things happen and there is nothing we can do about it. We talked about finding some way to help. We talked about how we will pray for the people of Japan. We talked about how scary it was and how it's okay to be scared. We talked about continuing to talk about it.
It's hard, exposing my children to the devastation and destruction of the world. To know that with each event and subsequent conversation, that a little bit of their childhood naivety is chipped away.
While it is my responsibility to protect my children, I realize that I can't hide them away from all the hardships of the world. But I can keep talking to them. I can teach them how to cope. And hopefully, I can teach them how to care.