We’ve spent a long time restricting the amount of information about 9/11 that we allowed our daughter to have access to. She wasn’t even two-years-old on the day that, for those of us old enough to remember, changed our lives and our thinking about our place in the world forever.
Each year since then, I’ve been glued to the real time replay of those horrific events, though I’m not exactly sure why — so I don’t forget? To make sure the seemingly impossible actually happened? But I always made sure my daughter was never around when I did that. As she went through the elementary school years, I knew she needed to have a certain amount of information about the events of September 11, 2001, but few details fell into the “age appropriate” category for a child who was still too young for things like Harry Potter.
As our daughter has gotten older, she’s been exposed to additional pieces of information that add to her understanding of the September 11 attacks, and each year my husband and I have had to decide how much more to add to the story. So as the tenth anniversary approached, we concluded it was time to allow our now-sixth-grader to experience the memorials and tributes and, yes, some of the real time replay for herself so she could have a better understanding of why our country is the way it is today, and why things came to a virtual standstill on 9/11/11.
But the thing is this — she wasn’t all that interested. Yes, we made her sit with us quietly and respectfully as we watched the unveiling of the Ground Zero memorial in New York. But she only lasted about ten minutes before she was back in her room, perusing her comics and daydreaming to Taylor Swift. So I wondered — is she still too young? Or was it more than that? She asked a few questions about why anyone would even think about doing what the terrorists did on that day and we did our best to answer — “Mom, are you crying?” — but I could sense her ambivalence.
Since that exchange, I’ve been wondering whether it’s too much to expect of our children — those who were just babies or not even born yet — to stop and have a somber appreciation of how the world changed? I was barely old enough to remember anything when our country endured the Cuban Missile Crisis, a day I know many still shudder to think about as the threat of nuclear annihilation felt imminent.
We did our best to talk with PunditGirl about the facts of what happened on 9/11, trying our best to convince her that people who are evil enough to fly jets full of innocent people into skyscrapers or the Pentagon or the U.S. Capitol really do exist. But then she went back to her own 11-year-old life.
What happened in your family? Did you talk with your young children about the tenth anniversary of 9/11? And, if so, did they grasp the magnitude of what had happened or not?
Joanne has a whole chapter about how parents talk with their children about the political world in her new book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press 2011), available now at Amazon. com.