Should I keep them in the loop? How much information is too much?
In the wake of recent events, I find myself having to shield my children from certain conversations. You know the ones. You're standing around idly chatting with another parent outside school, for example, and you mention 'after what happened in Boston,' and suddenly, the conversation takes on a whole new meaning and tenor. Lines around the mouth turn down, the tones of the chat become more hushed, and automatically, the ears of nearby children tend to perk up, only to bring extremely inopportune questions, such as, 'what is a Chechnyan, Daddy?'
They're smarter than we give them credit for – and they're more resilient, too. Kids today are routinely sheltered by their parents, who are in a constant state of flux over what to tell or not tell their kids at any given time.
It's a little different for my generation of parents than it was for our own. We live in a whole new world of safety, concerns, safety concerns, a nanny state, videophones and Facebook, where a watchful, nosy society is just waiting to document our mistakes. Helmets, supervising your kid everywhere they go, all the time (this has been a growing trend for some time, but how is my daughter ever going to learn to solve problems and situations for herself if she isn't placed in those situations from time to time? It's a question I have been mulling over from my end as well. I still don't have the answer. I doubt any modern parent does, really.
We can no longer let kids go by themselves to the park and tell them 'come home by dinner,' or even allow them to ride their bikes wherever they see fit afterschool because eight years old is way too young to allow her to ride around by herself – even though I had been doing the exact same thing, except at the age of five -- in 1981.
More bad news hit home this most recent Monday, and the resulting stress that landed at our house was also palpably felt by my children, who wanted to know why Mommy and Daddy were so glum. My wife and I managed to put the stress behind us and have a rational conversation later on, after the kids were in bed, but the hardest part was putting on a brave face for the kids in the hours before bed. It was extremely hard to smile on the outside, when uncertainty was roiling inside of me like a stormy ocean.
The difference between the two situations is that the first one – the hushed reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing and a situation that affected her parents in a more personal way is that we were able to use the Boston incident as a 'teachable moment,' and talk to our daughter about how some people use violence to solve real-life situations – and how that is far from OK. We decided, in the end, that sheltering our daughter from bad things that happen in the world would rob her of the ability to process the same type of situations in her own life.
It's like this: she's going to have to get used to the idea of life without her parents around her all the time – no time like the present, I guess.