I don’t want my kids to learn about September 11th.
I mean, they’re two, so it’s not like it’s bound to happen anytime soon. We don’t sing songs about the World Trade Center in our toddler music class. The word “jihad” isn’t on any of their flash cards. Abby Cadabby and Elmo have yet to deliver their emotional tribute to the brave passengers of United Flight 93.
I have time.
But someday, probably when I’m not around, they’re going to hear about it. One day at school, some kid will make a joke that goes over my kids’ heads, and he’ll say, “Duh, don’t you know about 9/11?” Or they’ll be flipping channels looking for some Nickelodeon sitcom with a pumped-up laugh track that tells kids how naïve and embarrassing parents are, and instead they’ll see an image of a plane flying into a skyscraper and a massive fireball erupting. “Daddy?” they’ll say. “That’s just pretend, right?”
My kids aren’t perfect. They fight, they whine, they throw tantrums. But they’re nice. They’re loving. They’re good natured.
When they’re at the playground and another kid pushes them and takes their toy away, they don’t fight back. They don’t even cry. They just stand there, confused. They never push or hit each other. Even when they both want the same thing, it just doesn’t occur to them to get physical. So when they witness that kind of violence from somebody else, they just stare at them and wonder, “Why?”
I know it’s only a matter of time before my kids pick up on that behavior. One day, one of them will want the xylophone pull toy that the other one has, and they’ll take it by force. Maybe they’ll forget about the toy and just start beating the crap out of each other.
But right now, the world is a place where people just don’t hit, where a bad day is when your balloon flies away, and you ask Daddy to buy you another one and he says no, because he knows you let go intentionally so you could watch it soaring into the clouds, out of view.
If I can’t explain bullies at the park, how can I explain 9/11? How can I tell my kids that all those horrible things that happened were actually planned by somebody? That people did those things to other people on purpose? That even today, some people see those images and instead of feeling shocked and sad, they cheer?
It’s not exactly like the bullies, because I’m not worried that my kids will copy the behavior. I doubt they’ll ever want to resolve their conflicts by flying planes into buildings. But I know I’m going to see that look on their face again, the look that just says, “Why?”
And then they’ll turn to me, like they do at the park, but this time, a shrug won’t be enough.
Instead, I’ll remind them of what they were like when they were two, how their view of the world and of other people was so pure and loving that even the smallest cruelty baffled them.
“It’s not easy to change the world,” I’ll say. “Just try not to let it change you.”