Sunday, March 13, 2011

What do you tell your children?

Saturday night a friend in the US asked on her Facebook page for advice on how to explain the tragedy in Japan to her four year old son. He was curious about the pictures, what to do?

Funny, on Friday I was thinking the same thing. I took out my daughter's earthquake book and we looked at it a bit and talked. Is it scary? Yes. Do we have some idea of what to do in case? I hope so. Can I promise her we will never face a big quake here? No. Can I reassure her that quakes in this region usually aren't quite as powerful as those along the Pacific rim? I think so.

Saturday night, and I hoped that she wouldn't catch on to the horror of the Itamar murders. We don't have the TV on in our house, and we usually don't listen to the radio news around the kids. I know we can't shelter them forever, especially in this part of the world, but the news is often so graphic that I want to try to filter it for as long as I can.

It's hard to hide anything from my precocious and perceptive five year old. She looks over shoulders as Abba sneaks a peek at his Android or Ima glances at the newspaper. She listens, watches, picks up on what's happening without needing to have it all spelled out.

So what do I say when she asks what happened? How do I explain without glossing over or simplifying?

She has already asked why we have to be searched and go through a metal detector whenever we go to the mall or take the train or go to the central bus station. Why our buses go through checkpoints when we go to Jerusalem. Why soldiers or police sometimes get on and inspect the bus.

Why when we travelled to the UK and the US we only had to be searched at the airports and museums but nowhere else.

I've told her that our neighbours have a dispute with us over whose land this is. I've told her that some of our Palestinian neighbours have been taught that it's OK to hurt and kill people if you are angry with them, rather than talking to them. I've told her we have to be careful of toys or packages left in the street because sometimes bad people put bombs in them.

I don't think such parev, simplistic explanations will hold her for long.

I don't know how to tell her that it isn't just in the street or in the shops or on the buses, but that sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, the bad people even come into Israeli homes and slit the throats of babies in their beds.

I made extra sure to hide the newspaper today.

In our part of the world concerns about terrorism are every bit as real as those about potential earthquakes, but there are no simple kids' books to explain the how and why.

No comments: