the Scotts Company in Ohio, when word got out that an airplane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. My co-workers and I scrambled to the one cubicle that had a tiny tv, and the crowd around it grew as we watched the towers fall.
We were all sent home early that day, and I remember standing in the back yard with my dog on the clear, sunny day. The silence in the sky was deafening that day as all aircraft were grounded until further notice. It would be 7 years before I would have my first baby, but I remember my neighbor talking to me over the fence, worried about how she was going to explain what had happened to her son, probably in junior high at the time, when he got home from school.
But how do you explain tough things like evil people and acts of terrorism to little kids? The other day my husband had on a tv show where some guys were shooting alligators in the swamp with arrows and hauling them into their boat. Sammy caught a glimpse and his eyes glazed over...my husband said something about how they were just hunting and when it got gross he changed the channel. Our 2 year old was not quite ready for that yet. So today I think, wow, what about all of those kids who caught a glimpse of human beings, hurling themselves out of the towers? What about the kids who watched the very towers where their mommies and daddies worked crash to the ground before their eyes?! What about the kids that were THERE, in person, being engulfed in the smoke and ash themselves, unable to turn off the tv?
As parents, our gut reaction is to shelter our innocent babies from everything bad in the world, from the bully on the playground to today's acts of terrorism. Unfortunately, however, there comes a point where sheltering our kids becomes impossible, if not unhealthy. I guess the best we can do is determine the right time to feed our kids reality in the right doses.
All it takes is a Google search of "explaining 9 11 to children" and you'll get millions of results. Here are just a few:
The Children of 9/11 Grow Up
Will You Talk About Terrorism, 9/11With Kids On Anniversary?
Tuesday's Children - Kids who lost parents on 9/11
It's a little young I think to start teaching my kid about "bad people," however, if I had to come up with a plan, my first thought would be....
1) Tell a personal story. At some point I'll probably tell my kids about that day as an intern and how it made me feel. It's so easy these days to see things happen on tv and separate them from reality. I remember my mom telling me where she was in school when president John F. Kennedy was shot...these stories I think help a kid realize that this really did happen, to real people, who remember.
2) Give it in small doses, according to age. This is a given, but you have to speak within their vocabulary and realm of understanding for whatever age, for them to grasp something.
3) Celebrate the GOOD. I think that when the time comes for me to explain 9/11 to my kids, I'd like to spend just as much time, if not more, talking about the good sides...all the heroes who brought a plane down in a field instead of a city. The firefighters, police men, and workers who rescued people from the rubble. I'd like to use it as an opportunity to celebrate our everyday heroes and the price they pay so that we can live in this great country with our freedom.
This is a big topic and I know I'm not giving it as much research as it needs... I've read that there is apparently an Arthur the Aardvark cartoon that helps explain 9/11 to kids, but have been unable to find it online. I'd love to read more if I had more time to web surf, but an running a little short on time today, so if you have any to share, please feel free to post links! Or if you've already begun explaining the dark side of humanity to your kids, I'd love to hear your advice and methods. At some point when we get past images of hunting animals, we'll have to get to the point of explaining people hunting people, and when the time comes, I know I could use all the advice I can get from you more experienced mommies!
God bless you all and God bless America...may we never forget the events of 9/11/01!