15
Jul
13

Kids – Not as Fragile as we Think

So I was watching Aliens the other day (live tweeting it too – next time it’ll be on the Dad Moon Rising feed as it confused my football followers) and there is a scene where Ellen Ripley is talking with Newt, the young girl Ripley and the Space Marines (sounds like a band) found hiding in the wreckage of the colony they are here to rescue.

I was struck by the conversation between the two during a scene where Ripley is trying to soothe Newt so the girl can get some sleep (how many of us have been there).

So here are the quotes and the thoughts around them. It’s a bit scattered but hopefully you’ll get my point(s).

Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.

Ripley: Yes, there are, aren’t there?

Newt: Why do they tell little kids that?

Ripley: Most of the time it’s true.

We all lie to our kids. All of us in some way, shape or form.

We choose what we tell our kids and what we hide from them. Take a sad event from the news on any day – I’d name some but really just click on CNN or pick up your local paper – and sometimes we tell our kids about them and sometimes we don’t.

We lie to our kids because we want to protect them. We want them to remain children for a little while longer and not have to deal with the world we see on the news or on the streets or in the papers for just a little longer.

There are topics and realities we aren’t ready to present to our kids – some of them not even the horrors of violence or war or <insert your issue here>, but things that are just not true.

Hell, some of us lie about Santa Claus.

Why?

I think ultimately, we want to believe that monsters don’t exist, magic does and that the world doesn’t suck as much as it tends to.

But for every monster which exists, there’s someone whose job it is to help us. For every piece of magic that doesn’t exist in the literal sense (Harry Dresden where are you?), there’s the sight of your kid opening Christmas presents. For every moment which makes your heart ache, there is one which brings you joy.

Our job is the shield our children for a while. Then it becomes our job to point out that yeah, life sucks sometimes – but it’s also fucking awesome. It’s filled with mistakes, sure, and sadness but it’s also filled with great stuff and experiences.

It’s a tough line because, while our kids are children and aren’t ready to deal with everything in the world, they know what’s what.

Ripley (re: daughter): She’s Gone.

Newt: You mean dead.

Have you had that conversation yet? Death is one of those things we hate to talk to the kids about, but – and you may vehemently disagree – I think that’s more about our own coping then theirs. I think much of the time we don’t want to have to console our kids because it’s hard to deal with death ourselves.

So we say things like “she’s gone” just like Ripley does in Aliens. And Newt, being a wiser kid than Ripley gives her credit for considering what she’s been through, calls her on the bullshit.

I’m not saying that your three year old needs to know about death or war or child abductions. But I’m willing to bet that he or she isn’t as fragile as you think.

Sure there might be fear and tears but that’s fine – that’s really why we’re there, to help them deal with that.

Ripley: I bet Casey doesn’t have scary dreams. Let’s take a look.

Ripley looks into the doll’s head.

Ripley: Nope, nothing bad in there.

Shows Newt the empty head of the doll.

Ripley: See? maybe you can just try to be like her, hm?

Newt: Ripley. She doesn’t have bad dreams because she’s just a piece of plastic.

When we try to pull the wool over our kid’s eyes too often, they know. Especially when they ask us a straight question. They deserve a straight answer, even if it’s just “now’s not the time to talk about it.”

It’s hard for me to talk to the boys about being safe walking or biking. That they have to be careful of people who might hurt them. That not all people are good, that some will judge them by their looks or likes. That some will flat out hate them for reasons they cannot fathom and maybe never will. To, in the face of all that remain a kind and thoughtful person.

It was damned hard when I had to talk to them about my grandfather dying last year, or their great grandmother before that.

But what happened when I was honest with them was healing – both for me and them.

I’m not always ready for the truth myself. I’m not ready to let go of Santa Claus for Omega Child. I’m not ready to give up on the Tooth Fairy, though the bitch is breaking my piggy bank.

Some of the best conversations I’ve had around the dinner table lately are about subjects that on the surface I’d rather not talk to the kids about.

But they knew about them to begin with and were completely capable of having an intelligent conversation about it.

It’s different for each kid and it’ll be different for your kid.

But maybe they aren’t quite as fragile as we think.

Hey, are you following Dad Moon Rising on Twitter or Facebook? Why the hell not?

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Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages

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