Refusing to resort to small talk about big topics

A little over a week ago, my son and I were down the street from where the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon. We were not at the finish line, or anywhere close to the explosions at the time. But we were caught in a chaotic and scary situation in the city during the aftermath – an experience I blogged about here.

The panic I felt that day, and the days after, as police tried to figure out who did this, then figured it out, then took down and captured the people who did it, was a collective, emotional, draining experience for everyone in Massachusetts – perhaps even for the entire nation.  So, it came as a bit of a surprise to me when, on Monday, after my son, who is in second grade, returned to school after a week of vacation, to learn that the bombings were not being discussed at all.

“Did you all have a talk about the bombing in class today?” I asked him seriously when he got home on Monday.

“No. Why would we?” he said.

“Well, because it’s a really big deal. You and I were actually right near by, as I’m sure others in your school were, too. I figured it would be something the school might want to discuss with you, and your class, in an age-appropriate manner,” is what I wanted to say back. But I just kept my mouth shut instead  – and got pissed.

This afternoon, I received this note from my daughter’s daycare.

“Several of our students have been talking about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, both with teachers and other children. When the subject comes up, we try and address the child’s concerns privately so that children who are unaware of the bombing remain that way. Many of the children (sic) are aware of what took place, however, and a few were actually at or near the finish line when the bombs went off.”

This is how close to home this incident hit for us.  As the note points out: “a few (children) were actually at or near the finish line when the bombs went off.” In other words: In our small town alone, my son and I are far from the only ones that experienced what we did that day. It was a life-alerting experience. Which is why, to me, there is no “unaware of the bombings.” I can’t imagine living in a home in this state where you nurture that kind of environment.

I know up to a certain age, there are things kids cannot understand or grasp. But it’s never been my style to pretend things are not as they really are in order to avoid an uncomfortable topic with my kid. What kind of a service are we doing for them in doing this?

There are few things that are “off the table” for conversation in my house when it comes to talking to my children. This has included, in recent days, the marathon bombings. In the last few years, it has also included speaking openly about the two difficult miscarriages I had in 2012, answering questions about good friends who have cancer, being honest about my grief regarding my mother’s death, explaining my feelings about religion, and being open about my unabashed support for gay rights and same sex marriage. We have many gay friends we spend time with, why the hell should I avoid talking about this like there is an elephant in the room? My kids have now gone from being curious about same sex relationships, to a slight period of amusement, to now not giving a shit – exactly as it should be, as far as I’m concerned.

I realize I am not in the majority in the way I feel. Maybe I’m assuming my kids can take on topics with me like an adult – which they are not. But I just hate pretending things are not what they are. Like many of you, I was in pieces after Newtown last year. I picked my daughter up from daycare that day and could barely speak to her teacher due to my grief and horror over what was happening in Connecticut. Forgive me if I couldn’t pull it together and sing “Wheels on the Bus” ten minutes later like life was OK. My son came home on the bus, blessedly, oblivious that afternoon. But my mood changed that quickly.

I’ve gotten some negative comments and email over the last few years because of this blog. And I’m sure as the result of this I’ll get a few more barbs. But, the fact of the matter is, I hate small talk. I always have. And that includes with my children. I simply can’t stand to make small talk in my own living room with the people I love more than anything else in the world.

I believe all topics need to be approached in an age-appropriate manner. But I refuse to believe I’m doing them a disservice by avoiding tough subjects. Do you?

I welcome your input.

This entry was posted in Children, Lessons learned, Parenting, Reality check. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s