Arizona…and Giving Children the World.

Light in Arizona

After reading a recent post over at mom-101 about explaining the unexplainable to your child, I began to think about the many things we have had to talk to ours about.  In the end, we’ve only just scraped the surface of the vastness of the human condition. It’s early days yet.

For instance, they are largely unaware of this latest moment in Arizona, which at 11 years of age might be appropriate I think. I’ve been listening for any reports of chatter on the subject coming home from school, but nothing has triggered any conversations as yet.  I suppose when situations like this do come across their radar, I tend to have 2 main goals. The first is that they are not left with an unreasoning sense of fear about their world and the second is that they grasp the true breadth of the tragedy. The people who are injured by the act certainly, but in cases like Arizona, the actions of a very young man in the service to madness and the unholy grief that his family must be experiencing as well, to find themselves sucked into this wormhole of pain and media madness. There is plenty of sadness and grief to go around and those wounded deserve our reverence and respect.

There is a whole history of man’s inhumanity to man that they have yet to learn about and I hope to be able to temper that learning with compassion and an offsetting dose of stories of the many, many moments of heroism and acts of genuine grace also contained in our history.

It’s an interesting job to be their docent at this age, as they stand on the edge, getting ready to expand outside themselves into the bigger world of human history.   They are beginning to becoming aware of 9/11 in an abstract way, but are too young yet to know the real context of it once you add in the human stories that came out of it. Those personal experiences are what pull it out of history and make it a personal event that you can internalize, and they are important. I think it is crucial to make that connection as best you can before you reach a snap decision about such things. They should never, ever be black and white. And it’s OK to say that some things are bigger than our judgment or understanding of them; that some things only deserve a reverent sadness.

John Lennon’s birthday coincided this year with their awakening to the existence of a band called the Beatles. That he was not only shot but that he was shot by someone who claimed to be a fan was almost beyond their grasp. The idea that some people suffer from the kind of madness that is without cure or rational intention was a tough thing to tackle, but I trust there will be a long time to build upon their understanding over the coming years.

Another interesting moment came when I had on Ken Burns documentary on The War and while they were in my room, they were not paying much attention to the TV. And then they heard the voice of the announcer when he began to talk about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I can tell you that 3 little Japanese-American heads stopped what they were doing and swiveled toward the TV. “Wha? Huh?” “Say What?!” “Mom?!  Oh yeah, I think, looking at the three sets of eyes turned my way, that’s got to be a bit of an identity crises. That talk led to the understanding that we had used nuclear weapons against Japan and a bare glimmer of the conflicting views on that action and it ended with a chipper sort of, “but we’re good friends now!”

I don’t put the news on for them to watch just yet, hell, I don’t even watch the news myself, because televised news anymore is more like watching an hour of grim death than being genuinely informed, and who the hell needs that when you can build your own newspaper on the internet. I don’t think they’re ready to take in that much hardcore ‘reality’ all at once.  They also they don’t know about Hollywood yet, which I consider one of my better accomplishments.  No one is desperate from fame or is measuring themselves against some size 2 model. Yay! And a couple of years ago, in a moment of irony, they learned about same sex marriage from the very people who didn’t want it taught in our schools to children. “Mom, what are all these people doing over there holding up signs. What’s Prop 8?”

Out of all of it, the moment that stands out in my mind was when my then 1st grade children were playing in my room and by chance there was some footage from the war in Iraq on a special reports promo of actual combat, firefight, the whole bit  and both boys stopped what they were doing, their attention grabbed by the sound of gunfire. They stood there, riveted for a few moments and then Middle Son asked in surprise, “Is that real?” and Oldest son answered before I could, saying “No. They don’t have wars anymore.” OMG. There was my child saying the most sane, rational, should-be-true-if-only-it-were-true statement, and it was going to be up to me to tell him that mankind just wasn’t that good yet.

Sometimes being a Mom seems like it’s the biggest job of all…

*here’s a link to an article on HuffPost with suggestions about how to talk to your kids at times like these.

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5 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Madilyn

    I see what happens in Tuscon and want to choke everyone who gives Palin, Beck, Limbaugh and their type the time of day. I want them to take responsibility for their foolish choice of commentators. Their like bullies and I want to puff up and get big enough to make them rethink their actions.
    How the hell can you be surrounded by crazy the way you are and be sooo grounded and sensible?

    January 11th, 2011

  2. admin

    I still think when something is as crazy as this, politics don’t apply. It’s like saying that listening to heavy metal music made a kid kill himself because of the lyrics. You’re into a level of illness that was going to crack somehow.

    January 12th, 2011

  3. Colonial Boy

    Part of the problem is, I think, that information travels faster than Knowledge. We have an internet connection to the world that brings everything that’s happening right into your lounge room and overloads you with stuff that you never would haave known otherwise… and NOT suffered in the least for your ignorance. I see pictures of floods in Australia that came through a source in central USA… now why should that be? It’s because everyone now knows about everything, and while SOME things are important and relavent enough to bear further scrutiny, most of it is curiosity value at best.
    We don’t NEED to know everything and the information overload often doesn’t help the quality of our lives. Being better informed can still mean you are none the wiser.

    January 13th, 2011

  4. Very well put at the end, being a mom (a good mom) is the biggest job in the world.

    Thanks for writing about your thoughts on this subject. It made me think of issues related to the events in Tucson that hadn’t occurred to me.

    January 13th, 2011

  5. admin

    Suz, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and read my post. I’m glad you found something in it. It really is often a case of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.


    January 13th, 2011

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