I’m so out of touch.
Oh, no, not with my daughter, or even “kids these days.” No, I’m out of touch with world events.
I know. I write for a news site. How can this be?
Well, I don’t see, hear or talk about most of what’s happening in the world in front of my kid.
My husband and I used to try to listen to just the 5 minute summary of the daily news from NPR in the car in the mornings, to keep up to date. That lasted until our daughter was old enough for us to look at each other in alarm every time the news started with “Two troops died today in…” or “A suicide bombing has been claimed by…” We decided that I would listen to it first, and then we'd go ahead if that day was not terrifying.
We ended up never playing it in the car again. Instead, I sat in the walk-in closet with headphones on, shaking about the world I’d brought my child into.
The nightly news died the same quick “Our child is now old enough to understand those words” death. The Daily Show and Colbert weren’t far behind.
Websites were our haven. I was thrilled to begin working for Patch about the same time that the video and audio news left my life. I felt very up to date on local events, as well as keyed in to the impact of larger national events.
Then my daughter learned to read well enough to look over my shoulder. I was delighted to share my columns with her, and we spent a lot of time combing through articles and sharing what we thought about what we saw.
The next week, .
So we’ve basically stopped consuming news at all in front of her. She gets most of her current events now at the dinner table, through the filter of what we’re willing to discuss with her.
I’m sure this is an overreaction. I can’t help it. I worked in play therapy with 5- to 9-year-old kids in San Francisco in September of 2001. Through their art and play, I got a window of what it looked like inside of the kids’ minds after the attack.
There were kids whose parents, dedicated to the same faith in truth and honesty that I want to be, told the children exactly what had happened. These kids flew planes into stacks of blocks, they drew pictures of bodies falling from buildings, they were terrified of the other kids, and they cried. A lot.
They knew too much.
The kids whose parents told them nothing at all about the events were in an even worse state. They found out about things through their peers and teachers instead. They built the same block towers, but kicked them down. They scribbled pages colored only in red. They were incredibly cruel to classmates who looked different.
They knew too little.
There were kids who knew something bad had happened, involving mean people and a plane. It happened far away, it was very sad, and some people were really mad about it. These kids built cities with the blocks that stayed standing. They played cards. They drew pictures of their families. These kids seemed okay.
They knew the right amount for their age.
So, as seems to always be my answer, it’s a balance. We tell our daughter what we think she needs to know about the things she’ll hear about anyway. She knows that there is an election coming up, and that her beloved president has to convince people that he should be president again. And she knows that some people think he shoulnd't be. And she knows where each of her parents (and some of her grandparents) stand in that decision.
But she doesn’t, for example, know how contentious the Republican nomination process has been, and as far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t need to. A seventh grader, sure. A 7-year-old? Not mine.
So you may run into a kid who knows that something bad happened in New York once, but doesn’t know what it is. Who knows there’s an election in November, but doesn’t know what the candidates are saying about each other. Who knows I want her to run and fight and scream if anyone she doesn’t know tries to grab her but doesn’t really know why.
Treasure her naivety. It won’t last long, and she’ll know the whole picture soon enough. Don’t wrap your kids in bubble wrap, but don’t drench them in gore. Balance. Of course.
Now, off to read Patch in a coffee shop. (And I’ll check for kids behind me first.)