Sunday, September 14, 2014

Explaining 9/11 To My Kids

I'm the type of mom that wants to be the first one to tell her kids anything and everything. I want them to hear if from me first, ask any questions they have on any topics, and be well informed. With the anniversary of September 11th this past week, I realized I had yet to mention anything on this topic to my oldest son who is in first grade. I realize, his teachers aren't going to sit them down in first grade and show them graphic photos of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. However, I'm very aware he may hear about these events from his older friends at school, in the neighborhood, or see a news story.

The week got away from me and I failed to speak to him about the significance of 9/11. I decided to take him to the Monte Burr Memorial in front of the Urbandale Fire Station this weekend. There is a small 9/11 memorial with a steel beam from the World Trade Center at this memorial. I also decided to speak to him a bit about September 11th before I took him. But what would I say???

So, I turned to my bff google. I googled "how to explain 9/11 to young children." Up popped this website:  No pictures of the tragedy unfolding, straight forward, yet nothing that will scare the crap out of him. I read through the article and then called him over to the couch for our chat. Since he's only 6, I focused on the "What happened that day?" portion of the article and explained it to him the best I could. If he had any questions, I would talk about the other sections. At this moment my four year old came barreling into the room. "But when we ride on an airplane, we'll ride on a good plane right?" "Why did they do that?" "Who did it?" "How did they do it?" "Who were the nice people that day?" "What happened to the bad people?" "What happens when people die? Where did the bad people go and where did the good people go?"

I was flabbergasted and truthfully, had no idea how I should respond. Do I answer his questions? He's only four. Will the answer scare him? My six year old took what I had told him and said "okay mom" and went about his business. My four year old wanted to know anything and everything about the day, including what I was doing, how I felt, and if I was scared to fly. I did my best to re-account the day for him without giving him nightmares. I was a senior in high school. I was just beginning study hall when a classmate ran into the library frantically yelling about what had happened. I remember the librarian getting mad at him, as my classmate jumped up on a chair and flipped on the t.v. so the entire library could see the smoking building. I remember sitting in silence, watching news coverage all day long. I remember thinking how it would effect our country, our state, our school, my friends, me. I remember the things that changed in the weeks that followed. I remember flying pre 9/11 and the nightmare of flying post 9/11. He had asked the questions and I answered them directly and truthfully.

After my story was finished and several more questions were asked (by my four year old, not by the six year old, who I had intended this conversation for), we drove out to Urbandale to the memorial (read more about the memorial here:  Since they're only four and six, they were disappointed that there wasn't a piece of the "bad plane" to see, but I felt this was a great way to introduce this horrific, yet significant part of our American history.

Someday we will take them to New York when they are old enough to understand the events that unfolded that day. I marvel at how much knowledge my four year wanted on the subject and how he processed the information. My oldest (who is so much like me it can get scary) heard what I had to say, took it in, and that was that. I'm still waiting for him to process the information and ask his questions, but I'm much more comfortable that he heard this from me and not for someone on the playground at recess.