Over the past few years, I have ended up in discussions with parents about their handling of the imagery and analysis of the September 11 tragedy.
One parent told me, at least two years after the attacks, that her child did not know they had happened, that she had felt it important to shield the child from "bad news." Another parent told me how meticulously she portioned out her children's exposure to the news, and that the news of September 11 had been methodically meted out in very small doses.
For us, I suppose our family's approach was the opposite of the two moms I am referring to (and I absolutely respect their choices). I don't remember if we picked our children up early from kindergarten (Tenley) or day care (Wayne Kevin) but I remember sitting at AJ Sports watching the footage of the attack on the towers and their subsequent demise over and over again along with with our 5 year old and 2 year old.
Wayne (husband) and I have always had different philosophies about the imagery our children see. If I had been 100% in charge, they would have been shielded from questionable content in movies and other media a lot more than they have been. But I wasn't 100% in charge and have rarely stepped in to challenge him.
That said, I do knowI have applied some general principles to how I handled my children's access to information (words and pictures):
1. Different children are capable of comprehending different information at different ages. There are things I felt Tenley was capable of understanding at age 8, for example, than Wayne Kevin was at the same age.
2. The world has in-your-face imagery that is rude, hyper-provocative, and carries with it double meanings. Sometimes it is our job as parents to give children a bit of the back-story so they understand that. For instance, when the song "Low" was popular, I went through the lyrics with my daughter line by line. My little girl thought a song about "boots with fur" was cute and funny, but I wanted her to know as she got older that belting out "she was worth the money" could imply something that she absolutely didn't want to communicate.
3. As adults, we can complicate things by reading more into situations than is necessary. I ended up taking Tenley to see Memoirs of a Geisha because I really wanted to see it and I wasn't comfortable leaving her home alone. Shortly after, she decided to dress up as a geisha for Halloween. That led to a conversation where a fellow mom at the bus stop said, "wasn't that a little old for her?" I replied, "she can handle it." Her choice of costume wasn't about female subservience; it was about a cool costume.
Tenley and I visited "Ground Zero" about a year after the attacks. The whole family visited when we were in New York in 2007. I don't know how Tenley and Wayne will choose to parent their children, but I hope they parent with principles of honesty, candor, and respect.
In deep reverence and remembrance ......
Bayonne, New Jersey 9/11 Memorial
Source: Jersey Journal File Photo