The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Quote of the Day
Thursday, August 10, 2006
We're Safe Here. Right?
When I was pregnant with ST, I remember telling my Mom on the phone that I hoped I would have a chatty, outgoing child, a child with opinions who was willing to voice them intelligently. At 8 months, ST uttered his first word (our cat's name, which he then shouted all day long) and he hasn't stopped talking since. He'll babble on about anything and everything to anyone and everyone; people think he's much older than he is because he has a massive vocabulary and pronounces things correctly (e.g., he says his "l" sounds correctly, where as many children his age pronounce them as "w"s: "valley" vs. "vawwey"). Suffice it to say, whenever I complain that the noise from ST's mouth is too much for me, my Mom just laughs at me and tells me that I got exactly what I asked for. She's right.

I've never been one for baby talk or for dumbing things down, and T is the same way. We've never used babyish words or phrases with him (e.g., no "blankie" or "nigh-nigh" in this house, but "blanket" and "Good night"), and we've always tried to explain everything to him in a way that he could understand but not in a way that shielded him too much. ST is really a fantastic listener, and he has questions about complicated things all the time. For the most part, I am very comfortable explaining how and why things happen in his world to the best of my ability: I am, after all, a teacher. I should be good at this. I love it when ST asks me questions about what he heard at Mass, about photographs he sees in the newspaper, or about adult conversations he's overheard. I like to get a sense of the information that he pulls from these sources, and what they mean to him.

When the Israel-Lebanon conflict erupted weeks ago, ST and I were driving around this city waiting for T's interviews to be over. We were listening to NPR (as always); I thought ST was sleeping in the backseat. All of a sudden I heard, "Mom! The Israelis are DYING!" He then proceeded to ask me what Israelis were, why they were dying, who was killing them, etc. "I bet the Israelis are very sad," he said in a small voice. I liked that he was listening, and I liked that his response to the news was compassionate. I liked that I was able to give him some idea of what war was, awful as it is. It is part of the world he lives in.

Today, however, I wasn't sure how much to say. ST loves to watch the news with me or listen to it on the radio. We sat down in front of the CBS news this afternoon before supper and heard the reports about the thwarted terrorist attacks on flights between the U.K. and the U.S. ST watched intently the images of people dumping the contents of their suitcases into garbage cans, images of police surrounding a brick house in London. His first question: "Why are those people throwing away their shampoo?" I explained that if you mix some things together, it can be dangerous and explode, and that the pilots of the airplanes and the police didn't want anyone to get hurt if things were mixed together.

"But WHO would mix the shampoo?" he asked. I explained that there were some people who who were mean and who didn't like other people, and that they wanted to hurt other people flying in airplanes.

As if on cue, the television flashed to an image of an airplane smashing into the World Trade Center on September 11. "You mean airplanes like THAT?" ST said, wide-eyed. "Why are those planes crashing into that building, Mom?" I tried to explain what happened on September 11, and ST looked very concerned. "But what happened to the people on the airplanes?" he asked. "And what happened to the people in that building?"

"They died," I said. "It was very sad."

He thought a moment and looked up at me with his big blue eyes. "But mean people won't crash into our Pond House. Will they?" I hugged him and assured him that, no, mean people would never crash into our house and that we were very safe here, and that his Dad was very safe in Doctoral University City, too. He seemed to be OK with that answer and seemed relieved.

I'm glad he's a bright kid. I'm glad that he knows what's going on around him, even if it's horrible. But even though I feel very safe here in our Pond House, I fear for the terrible things that are part of ST's reality at three years old. As I said, I've always been happy to explain things to my preschooler as honestly as I can, but there are some things a three-year old just shouldn't have to know.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 8/10/2006 08:51:00 PM  
4 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 11:04 PM, Blogger phd me said…

    Oh, how I agree with you, especially after just seeing the movie WTC. I'm sorry ST was so upset but I'm so glad he has a mom like you to make sense of his world.

  • At 11:46 PM, Blogger Lilian said…

    OMG, reading the beginning of your post was SO UNCANNY!! It sounded like me writing! Our oldest son's first word was our cat's name too (he was 7-8 months) and we never used baby talk with him either. He asks complex questions all the time and we love to explain things to him... The only part that differs is the war conversations - and I think the main reason is that he still doesn't fully understand English and I only get my news from NPR (today I listened to it quite a bit in the car) and online, and we never watch any news on TV.

    It's tough to talk about these sad and worrisome things with our children, isn't it?

  • At 7:16 AM, Blogger RageyOne said…

    I applaud you for the manner in which you raising your son. My brother and sister-in-law have done the same thing with their 2 boys. A lot of people are amazed at the knowledge those young boys have and how well they speak.

    Sometimes it can be very difficult to help them understand what is going on around them. Children are very sensitive and we really want to protect them. However, in these instances knowledge may be the one thing that will shield them the most.

  • At 11:06 AM, Blogger betty said…

    Prof Me, you sound like a great mom! And I do wish I could meet ST sometime. I love this story and I love that ST is getting the honest truth from you and his dad. This posts also reminds me that my biggest fear when I was growing up was terrorist because that's right around the time that plane was hijacked near Ireland or something. Luckily I never flew, I think I would have been terrfied - but for a while I was scared of the sound of planes flying overhead. I felt that same way Sept 11 (as I'm sure many did). But I agree with Ragey - knowledge is important. It sounds like you are raising an intellegent compassionate son.

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