Our eldest two children, now 15 and 17, remember 9/11. They were just 4 and 6 on the day America was attacked by terrorists, and though they don’t remember details of the events, they remember they were scared. And they remember mama was scared.
Along with most of America, I was nearly motionless, staring at the television, obsessing
over the video footage, and listening to commentators say the same things
over and over. After several days, my little boy, whom I thought wasn’t really paying attention, asked, “Why does the plane keep crashing into that building?”
I looked at him with full attention for the first time in days, and at that moment, I realized: I wasn’t living in my present.
I was taking care of my family’s basic needs, but I wasn’t really living.
Knowing I could do nothing for those affected, but I could do much for my family, I turned off the television and began living again. I continued praying for those affected, while shielding myself – and them – from news that wasn’t “new.”
Since that time, when a tragic event happens, I gather information through online news, then sit down with the children to talk to them about what happened. I usually add, “this happened very far away,” because a small child does not realize the world is large. I reassure them of their safety, and we pray together for those affected. When possible, we brainstorm ways we can help ease the pain of those involved – through a craft project, by mailing a hand-made card, or through physically helping during local hurricanes & tornadoes.
But above all, we keep living in our present.
Mr. Rogers, the cardigan-wearing television host of a children’s program, wrote the quote in my graphic above before his death in 2003 (the photo is one I took of my girls two weeks ago). He also wrote a beautiful article on teaching children about tragic events.
p.s. Our readers shared their tips in our discussion on Facebook.