The conversation in our living room while my husband and I drank our coffee was fast and furious this morning. We awoke to the news that the U.S. military had killed Osama bin Laden, buried his body at sea, and crowds were celebrating outside the White House and in Times Square.
My boys were caught up in our conversation as they emerged from upstairs, but there was little time to delve into how they felt about things before I had to send them off to school. I know that bin Laden’s death will be a main topic of conversation at school for my boys — especially the one in junior high.
Throughout the day, school children will hear all sorts of things, some accurate and some not, some compassionate and some not, and that will certainly give them cause for concern. Here are some of the things I imagine kids will hear — and a lot of it will be disturbing.
- Bin Laden’s followers will want revenge on the United States, and there will be new terrorist attacks. We’re not safe.
- President Obama lied. If bin Laden was really dead, the military would be keeping the body as proof.
- The president has known where bin Laden has been for a long time. He only had him killed now because he’s about to run for re-election and it’s a good political move.
- The Navy SEALs shot and killed a woman who was being used as a human shield by one of bin Laden’s men.
- No one should celebrate another person’s death. If you’re happy about it, then you’re just as bad as bin Laden.
- If you’re not happy about bin Laden’s death, then you’re obviously a Muslim terrorist.
- That Muslim got what he deserved. We should get the rest of them before they get us.
On any given day, kids need a chance to sit down with their parents and decompress after a day of taking in whatever life throws at them. Today, I believe it will be extra important to make sure our children have a safe, uninterrupted period of time to talk about what they’ve heard and how they feel about it.
Right before my 11-year-old left for school, his younger brother told him that the Philadelphia Phillies had lost to the Mets last night. The 11-year-old commented, “I don’t really care about the Phillies right now. I’m really worried about what’s going on with bin Laden being killed.” I’m sure many of the children in our country and around the world share his worry.
So tonight, choose foods for dinner that you know your kids love (spaghetti and meatballs anyone?) so that getting your kids to eat a bite of Brussels sprouts isn’t the focus of the conversation. Carve out more time than usual for your family dinner. Turn off the TV and the radio, and leave the cell phones in another room. Then, let the kids guide the conversation at the table and sit there as long as it takes to let the conversation run out. It might take five minutes. It might take an hour.
Finally, be prepared to do this again tomorrow night. This isn’t a one-day conversation.