(1) They are not scared by these topics.
(2) I only answer questions they ask, and only read them books about it because they want them.
(3) All 3 of the kids see these topics as “what can we do?” instead of feeling like they are bad things that we can’t control.
I know I trend more towards honesty with my kids than some persons are comfortable having, and I don’t mean to imply that NOT telling your 4-year-old about the holocaust is dishonest. I just mean, I tend to give transparent answers to questions that others might think are age-inappropriate.
Feel free to judge this, too:
I took them to the Holocaust Museum on Friday. I’ve been a docent there, so I knew the exhibit. I was only going to show them parts of it, maybe because I was too sheepish to plan on the entire thing. The ticket-man and the bookstore-woman were both deeply concerned that I brought my kids. I understood. But I’d spent weeks of them asking for so many details about it that I knew it would be okay.
And it was. It was more than okay.
In the end, they saw every exhibit there. The Richmond Holocaust Museum is different than some, as you walk through the experience. The ghetto, the train car, all of it. Even the crematorium. It’s not just pictures of emaciated persons; it’s the re-enactment of the experience. It’s as “child-friendly” as a museum about the holocaust could hope to be, although it *certainly* depends on the child.
All three children were reverent and sincere. I never once had to ask them to not run, to talk quietly, anything. They asked a million-and-three questions. They were mesmerized by the knowing and learning.
Somehow, this is part of their Essential Core. I can feel that from them. They wanted to see and know everything.
I ended up going back to parts I’d skipped, because they were hungry for all of it. At the end, they were all disappointed that “it was already over” – and each of them asked, independently from each other, if we could come back the next day.
In the bookstore after we’d seen the exhibit, the same woman who’d initially given me judging looks for bringing my kids came over to me. Apparently, she’d heard our conversation, when the kids talked about how the Nazis needed to use the Golden Rule and judge people by the content of their character (thank you, MLK Jr.). I think she sensed I hadn’t just ruined their lives by bringing them to the museum. She suggested a few books, tousled their hair, and told them she hoped to see them again soon.
Here’s the thing: If it was scaring them, I wouldn’t do these things. But the more they learn, the more empowered they seem to become. That fascinates me about my children. Maybe it’s all Tiny Humans, but these are the 3 I know best.
On the car ride home, Simone (4) said: “If I were President, I would change the laws for Jewish people. So Naomi could eat shrimp.”
Jack (8): “But Simone, that’s a law they WANT to have. They choose that one.”
Simone: “WHAT? I thought the Nazis told them that?"
Jack: “Hmm. Well. There aren’t really Nazis in America these days. We have to change the world in different ways. ”