A few nights ago, I woke up with a lump in my throat and worry in my heart. In the middle of the night, during a fit of sleep, I checked my phone for the time, and there the headline read, “Russia has bombed Kyiv.”
Immediately, I flashed back to my childhood, memories of the Gulf War, when, as a 10-year-old child, I watched the evening news with my family seeing images of tanks and machine guns, and families fleeing for their lives. My own children, ages 6 and 10, would now have this memory of war as well.
As I wondered what I might say, I posted on Facebook, “How do you talk to your young children about war… in the present tense? (I know how to do this intellectually. It’s the heart to heart part that’s kept me up all night.) How do we explain a thirst for destruction, murder, greed, and power hungry leaders when my children ask, ‘but why?’”
My father-in-law reminded me in a comment that parents have been pondering this question since the beginning of time. Other friends shared in my sadness and broken heartedness. A few had some tips.
Here’s what I did say. “My loves, I need to talk to you about some news you’ll probably hear more about these coming days, and it’s really sad, but it’s also really important that we know about it and talk about it.” And I explained just a bit about the history of Russia and the USSR and the struggle over land and power, but what they wanted to talk about was the children. The Ukrainian children. “I hope they have a basement to hide in,” my six-year-old son said. “Because that’s what I would do if someone bombs us.”
My ten-year-old daughter wondered where the leaders were. Why couldn’t they work things out without fighting and killing? So we talked about the importance of who we choose as our leaders. The importance of learning how to solve problems in peaceful ways. Not just in big situations like this, but in everyday life situations. Thankful for their Montessori, peace based, education model and my own experience with Godly Play, I had some language to wonder with them about these things. Trusting their own wisdom and honoring their thoughts.
Later that morning, as my daughter and I were driving to her orthodontist appointment to tighten up her braces, she said, “Ugh, I always have to sit and wait in that chair for such a long time to be seen. It’s so boring.” And I wondered with her about spending that quiet time praying for peace. (I’m not going to pretend that she didn’t roll her eyes a bit.) Afterwards, as I dropped her back at school, she said “You know mom, I don’t know if I really prayed, but I did look out the window and think about those kids.”
Our world is so broken. People are hurting everywhere we look. And we can’t help but ask that age-old question, “Why, God?”
As we got ready for bed that evening, the last thing we talked about were the choices we make. And I repeated to my kids the words my mom and dad (God rest their souls) said to me and my brothers all those years ago. “We have choices every day about how we treat people. The language we use. The jokes we laugh at. The way we include or ignore people. The times we choose to stay angry and mad, or the ways we work to forgive and show love.”
I cannot fix this world for my sweet babies, but I can make sure they know their own place in working for peace. And I have to trust them in that.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via publicdomainvectors.org]