When the girl came home from school today, she asked, “What is 9/11?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. She said everyone was talking about it at school and she didn’t know what it was. I think I know why; she was just five years old on 9/11/01. I remember explaining to her then, what I thought she’d understand, without making it too frightening for her. We sheltered her from the TV coverage; you probably remember — some of it was quite graphic. And I’m sure we’ve mentioned it on anniversaries since, so I’m not sure where this sudden historical amnesia is coming from.
So I sat her down and explained. I showed her some Internet coverage and some photos. I told her what I remembered about that day, and how sad it was — still is — for the entire country.
And you know what? She didn’t believe me. Not a word. I don’t know who got to her first but she is adamant. “It’s made up. That’s insane. That could never happen,” she said.
I understand, a little bit, where she’s coming from. I didn’t want to believe it then, either. It was all so surreal. And now, for some reason, she’s choosing to protect herself from this knowledge. Maybe she needs to, to feel safe in her world, at least for now.
I started to write this post a few times this evening, feeling like a failure as a parent because my kid thinks the greatest tragedy of our nation is a falsehood. I was going to ask for ideas of how to convince her 9/11 is real; that it really happened. But I’m not sure she’s ready. And I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.
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You are spot on, MJ. Sometimes are kids are smarter than we are when it comes to knowing what they can handle. My girl didn’t remember it either. She was a couple years younger than yours at the time. But yesterday she saw a video clip of the planes flying into the towers. (BTW, this was a much closer clip than we saw that day. Even more disturbing, if that’s possible.) Anyway, she was shocked. I assured her that it had happened years ago. We talked about how scary it must have been to have been in the area at the time. She had no idea that’s what 9/11 was about or that was why everyone was wearing red, white, and blue to school. She still doesn’t understand the “big picture” but I think that will come in time. And so will your girl’s understanding and acceptance.
Did you ever think about how we talk about Noah’s ark to kids? It’s a happy story about Noah and 2×2 animals! We never focus on the entire planet being flooded and every other human being drowning. It’s not a pretty story. But, it’s not G-rated. We just feed our kids what they can digest at the time.
Sorry this is so long. I just wanted you to know that you are a wonderful mom. You’ll still get my vote for Mom of the Year just for the crossing guard thing alone! 😉
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She’s still young and it’s too great a tragedy to comprehend. You haven’t failed her.
I completely understand her reaction – I remember watching the first tower fall, and my brain just didn’t register it as real. I remember thinking of the movie “Independence Day” and thinking “this cannot be happening – this is a movie – this isn’t real.”
I think our brains do go into a kind of protective mode sometimes in those situations because the reality is just too painful to absorb. The Girl will be okay – when she’s ready to feel all the pain and terror that comes with the reality of 9/11, she’ll let you know. For now, let her preserve her childhood as long as possible and just be there, like I know you will be, when that veil of safety comes down.
I agree with Mistie. I’ve never heard of anyone actually arguing that 9/11 happened, but I also don’t have children. I imagine I’ll have a hard time explaining 9/11 to my children some day, but I never thought they might not actually believe me or not be able to comprehend it…maybe I’m thinking they’ll be 16 when I finally tell them 😉
Sounds like at some level she truly knows what she can handle and what she can’t. She’ll process it and come to terms with it eventually, especially with your support. My daughter is about the same age, and she definitely remembers it, but my surprise came when I found out that no one at school, not even her social studies teacher, brought it up yesterday. It’s good not to dwell, but it’s important to know, right?