What my kids don't know
A few of my education students are doing research on how to talk to children about terrorist attacks. I was chatting with them about it the other day and all at once, I realized that my children do not know about 9/11. Are you horrified? Or do your kids not know about 9/11, either?
I don't think I ever made a conscious decision not to tell them. I think it started as wanting to wait as long as possible to tell them, because who even looks forward to that task? Then it just never came up. When would it have? It's not a topic of conversation at home or (generally) in the societies where we've lived. It's never come up at school, either. The girls went to British schools in the UAE and Finnish school here. It's not part of the curriculum in either place, obviously. Something I never made a decision about has become something I have accidentally gotten away with.
But maybe that's a good thing (hear me out). Magdalena has a vivid imagination and is easily disturbed by violent or scary or even happiness-uncertain content in movies. I mean, she was bothered by the idea that in The Princess Diaries 2, Mia might end up with the wrong guy. To the point of crying about it. I had to tell her how it ended before she would sit down and enjoy the movie.
So perhaps it's my instincts that have been serving me all along - I'd like Magdalena to continue not knowing about 9/11 for a couple of years, if we can manage it. Miriam, I think, could handle it, so I'll look for the right time to tell her sometime soon.
It almost could have been yesterday. We were hiking in the forest on Ruissalo island and came across a tree that had fallen across a wide ditch. The girls took turns walking across it like a tightrope, and as Jeremy and Sterling and Magdalena walked ahead, Miriam and I chatted about balance beams and falling from heights. I told her about the guy who walked between the World Trade Centers on a tightrope and she was so tickled by the story. "Really, Mama?!?!" But what I didn't emphasize was the awkward phrasing I had used: "There were these buildings in New York that were called the Twin Towers. They were the tallest buildings in the world and they were the same height." Her 11-year-old analytic brain couldn't resist: "Mama, they were probably a couple of inches different, don't you think?" But, distracted by the amazingness of that story, she didn't ask why I'd used the past tense - why the buildings weren't still there.
I know it's just a matter of time before they have to know. And maybe I'm wrong for treasuring my kids' ignorance and calling it innocence. But I didn't mean for it to happen this way - it just did.