Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Talking about the War

The Kid, my kid, is a budding computer and video game creator. It is the one thing he wants to do when he grows up. Since he's too young to write code, he is currently writing the story, the walk-through and the readme files for his future games. He was reading one of these to me on Monday when he said something that stopped me cold. He said, "…and then the bad guys, the Iraqs…"

I asked him what he meant and he said, "You know, Mom, Iraqs, the people we're fighting in the war."

I have always answered The Kid's questions about the war (these come mostly from playground comments made by his friends who seem to be spouting rather butt-headed things they've heard their parents say) as honestly as I could, but it's hard. I do not like talking about war with my child. I don't support this war and I wish it were over. I want to make sure that The Kid understands that war is not fun, not adventure – war is violence and death – period. But he's seven, a sensitive seven and I don't want to scare him or freak him out.

Yesterday, while he was at school, I found some photos on the internet of kids and families in Iraq (interestingly, the best of these were from The White House website). After school we looked at the pictures and talked about Iraqi families eating dinner and going to school, playing video games. We talked about how parents all over the world love and take care of their kids – just like us. "And when you say 'Iraqs' in your walk-through, you're taking about these kids, kids and families, just like us."

His eyes widened and I thought for a minute he was going to cry. "Does T. know this?" he asked. T. is his best friend at school.

I had to answer, "I don't know." Honestly, I don't know what parents who let their kids play with real antique guns and violent adult video games tell their kids about the war.

We talked about good guys and bad guys and how the world is not always so clear cut, so black and white. I did my best to boil the reasons for the war in Iraq down into some ideas he could understand. I told him it's complicated. For adults too, it's complicated. And I think he understood. I reminded him that I am always here to talk about anything and when he brings questions, I'll do my best to answer them. It was one of those moments, as parent, when you just know you either came through with flying colors or failed spectacularly - it may be a while before I know which.

How are you talking to your kids about the war?


  1. Oh, I don't think you'll have to wait to find out if you passed or failed...looks to me like you passed with flying colors.

  2. Oh, I hope so, Karen!

    Believe it or not, The Kid came home with HEAD LICE today! Do you think he caught them from Mrs. G?!

  3. Stryker and I talk about the war quite a bit, mostly focusing on the ways in which our government doesn't represent our views. Reading this makes me think that we don't talk enough about on the ground pain and suffering.

    About six months ago, we were talking about the war in the van -- Scarlett and Merrick were along.

    Scarlett screamed: "War? We're in a war?!"

    I thought that was so revealing on a couple of levels. First, I'm creating a political animal with one kid and ignoring the other (in that regard). Second, we live in a country where we have the luxury to tune out a war completely: Iraqi children don't.

  4. You're right. My child has no concept of what war really is - other than a game on the playground. I'm trying to shine a little light on the reality without scaring him.

  5. A few weeks ago we were in an independent bookstore up in Northampton, MA, waiting for my husband to purchase some books. While we were waiting, Ethan (8) read a book title from a shelf, "The 3 Trillion Dollar War." I explained to him that that's an estimate of the final cost of the war in Iraq. Once he had absorbed that, I explained to him that our government doesnn't even have all that money - that we were having to borrow it from other countries, like Japan and China.

    He summed up, "That's the problem with this war - all these people are dying and we're wasting all our money."

    I think he should run for President!

    (This is the same kid who asked me once if politics was anything like lunatics...)