Terrorism and 1st Graders

Ugh. This parenting thing really sucks sometimes.

I was in the living room today watching the President talk about the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack. My 6-year old son was playing Legos and my 4-year old daughter Webkinz. Neither seemed to be paying much attention.

I should have known better.

CNN flashed images of terrorists training in some far off land, and my son said “Who are those guys? What are they doing?”

And instead of my usual parental evasion that I love so much, I just said it…flat out:

They are bad guys. They are training to hurt us. They are called terrorists.

Why are they bad? Why don’t they like us?

And a very touchy conversation took place in which I tried very hard to explain, in 6-year old terms, how Americans haven’t always been nice either, and that people spend years hating other people for things that could probably be solved with diplomacy. I explained that they didn’t like us very much. That they wanted to hurt us.

My darling little boy then asked me if the terrorist could come here. I could tell he was scared.

I wanted to say no. I wanted so badly to say no.

Honey they do try to come here a lot. But that’s why we have soldiers and police and the Army and Navy and Air Force and Marines and they all protect us.

His eyes were huge. And I wanted to lie to him.

Well Mom, if they came here I’d hide in our ottoman with the toys. And I know some karate.

Sigh. My 6-year old, thinking about how to evade a terrorist. What kind of world is this?

You won’t have to hide, sweetie. We have lots of people to protect us. Plus, our President is working on making it so that we all don’t hate each other anymore. And no one will want to hurt anyone.

Softening a bit, he came and sat next to me on the couch.

Mom, the next time you go see Barack Obama at that place…can you tell him to talk to them right away. Like, maybe, before I go back to school from my vacation?

I blinked a few times, put my arm around him…

I’ll try honey. I’m sure he’s very busy though. But I will try…

And with that he was off the couch and practicing his Tae Kwon Do moves on his sister’s new dinosaur.

I wanted to start the conversation over. I wanted to make sure I explained to him that war wasn’t the answer and that these terrorists had families of their own…probably a little boy and a girl, just like his family.

Instead I sat there dumbfounded, and worried and unsure how to explain to him culture clashes and wars that were as old as time. And hoping I didn’t say anything to ingrain in him the idea that Americans were entitled to everything and always right, and that he was superior to anyone- but also making sure he understood killing innocent people was never acceptable. And that we will always defend ourselves against attacks.

All I saw was him punching and kicking the dinosaur. And I wanted to cry.

I think I failed.


  1. Les Petomane says:

    All three Mike.

    And yes, I will get help… especially when we take back congress next year, beat Nancy down and kick Harry all the way back to his sand spit in Nevada. ­čÖé

  2. Les officially just creeped me out slightly. But hey… such is the way of the internet. Aren’t you glad, Les, that I would invite you?

  3. OK….move along….nothing more to see here…..

  4. and i now want a necky AND a snuggie. one in hot pink and one in leopard print

  5. “and i now want a necky AND a snuggie. one in hot pink and one in leopard print”

    ….we could sell tickets…..

  6. They would go nicely with the burqa

  7. Is this what they call the “layered look”???

  8. “especially when we take back congress next year”

    Please make sure that is the GOP rallying cry. “Take back Congress”

    Can you do that for us? thx
    .-= Mike Serven┬┤s last blog ..mserven: @jennbikegirl I think speaking for many, we are glad that you tweet #500 #twittercrack =-.

  9. OMG Ptomaine — You’ve got a wonderful parenting book there. We can call it “Bad Parenting to Breed Stupid Adults Who Cannot Work With Others.”

    Dear Queen: There is no one truth, only incremental learning about how to deal with others and the world. When our children are young, it’s perfectly reasonable to keep things from them. As our children get older though, I think that it’s far better to let the child gently know that the world can be hard sometimes. You showed your child the first steps in realizing that the world is tough. And that was enough for today. Sounds like fine parenting to me. The failure parents are those who say “There is ONLY “black” and “white.” WE are “good” and THEY are bad. Breeds fundamentalism. For a present, here’s my favorite lecture on fundamentalism: http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2005/sep05/perspective.html

  10. There’s just no good answer, no right way to talk about stuff as screwed up as this. Do you do the thing I do when I’m not happy with how I explained something or how a conversation went, so I find myself bringing it up over and over, rebeating the dead horse, scaring my children and making them think their mother is a lunatic…? Awesome.
    .-= Alicia┬┤s last blog ..Gangsta Ants =-.

  11. YOU didn’t fail, 6 year old boys are gonna beat up dinosaurs even if you raise them in a BUddhist monastery. It’s what 6 year old boys do. I don’t know how I will talk to my son about this stuff when he’s six. He’s only 3 now. A few months ago our neighbor down the hall had his newsppaer delivered and as we walked past his door my 3YO boy saw the front page photo, which was of some guys in black with ski masks on and big guns. He said, “What does that say, Mommy? WHo are those guys?” I replied, “It says they’re bad guys, and they put them in jail.” “Oh good,” he sighed. “Now that the bad mans are in jail they won’t push people down anymore.”
    I’m glad the worst he could think of for them to do was to push people down.

  12. i live very close to the detroit airport, and i’ve been struggling with the same issues. i think you win parenting for being as thoughtful as you are.
    .-= supertiff┬┤s last blog ..a new beginning =-.

  13. @supertiff: you fail as a fucking American. It only resonates with you because you live near fucking Detroit?! Way to be a homer.

    BTW, 9/11 only meant something to me because I live withing 10 miles of the Pentagon.


  14. You pass!! You answered the question truthfully with the information to help him understand. You will further show him that fighting and war isn’t always the answer even if we do have to defend ourselves sometimes. True as a country and individuals. I never thought it was ok to lie to a child just give them the part of the truth they can handle and answer the questions they ask.
    .-= Lela Willey┬┤s last blog ..Merry Christmas and Health Care for all!!! =-.

  15. Aaron I think you’re out of line. She didn’t make any indication on what that made her feel. All she said was she lived near the airport. If you live near where it happened you’re going to mention that.

  16. That’s a tough one. How do we explain terrorism, war, conflicts of this magnitude, and religious martyrdom? If there is a book on the subject please let me know!

  17. You need to tell your children the truth…but only as much as they can handle for their age.. sounds like you did just that.

  18. way late in the game.
    i wanna offer my take.
    i taught for 12 years middle school…
    they will remember your love
    and your thoughts
    and the way you honor and respect them
    and you don’t have to send them home at the end of the year (talk about feeling you didn’t give them enuf)
    i can only imagine it’s heightened b/c you are trying to prevent their pain…
    on a 24/7 basis.
    you will have dozens times to retell whatever version you want.
    but yours was very honest.
    and hiding things doesn’t work.
    i wish i’d grown up with “and many people dont like us” instead of having to undo lots of years of imposed elitism…
    anyway, this isn’t polyanna. people remember how you made them feel.
    children especially.
    harsh truths are tough
    but they will remember how you say it and how you react / live your own sense of truth.
    hugging your integrity and honesty and your seeing that sharing like this matters so much.
    i think
    .-= Tre ~┬┤s last blog ..Reflections on a Sunday ~ Healing Self Hatred =-.

  19. You didn’t fail. I do hope that I can find such words when my kid asking those tough questions. At 6, and even younger, kids have a sense that there are bad things and bad people. Maybe your son doesn’t fully understand the complexities of history (I don’t think adults do either). But obviously you have given him a sense of confidence and safety to the extent that he’s even battling dinosaurs on your behalf. I say well done!

  20. Ouchies. I don’t think you failed, though. As much as parents want to protect their kids, this IS a different world, and six year olds can be pretty darned smart.
    .-= Al_Pal┬┤s last blog ..My new creative outlet: Bread Puddings! =-.


  1. […] about the White House response to the Christmas Day attempted terror attack…just with a much different spin. I talk about my Weapons Grade hate for Sarah Palin, my feeling on the war in Afghanistan, my anger […]

Speak Your Mind