I will admit, this has been a tough article to write. The last couple of years, the world has been on a roller coaster with so many ups and downs, curves and straightaways, we wonder when the ride will end and what the end will be. What will this year bring – heck, what will this month bring?
When I was a child growing up in northern Virginia with close proximity to our nation’s seat of government, along with fire drills, schools practiced bomb drills. Looking back, I am aware that hiding under our wooden desks or even crouching against the cinder block walls with our arms covering our heads was hardly protection, but it did briefly stop class which no one complained about. We were too young to really understand the reason we participated in such drills. After all, our parents never seemed concerned, but maybe they hid it from my sister and me, discussing the world’s situation after we were safely tucked in our beds.
There was no internet or 24-hour news stations. There was local evening news and Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley. The morning Washington Post and the evening Washington Star newspapers were delivered daily, but, of course, held no interest for me other than the funny papers. Until the Bay of Pigs incident became front and center on TV, other countries were places you saw during the Olympics or in travelogues. The age of innocence was over.
Fortunately, that incident only lasted a few days, and life seemingly went back to normal. As a young child, however, the idea that if something like that could happen, shouldn’t we be afraid something worse could also happen? I remember my parents soothing my fears, but I don’t remember their words. I do know that I felt safe.
My next memory of being made aware of war was when a girl in my class told us her father, who was serving in the army, was being deployed to Vietnam. Most of us were unaware of the dangers he was facing as it concerned a faraway nation most had never heard of. Of course, we became much too familiar as that war raged on for nearly 20 years. When I thought about her, I wondered if her father returned safely. I never knew as the next year we attended different schools.
So now, with continuous coverage and film, how do we speak to our young children about what is happening in the world? In speaking to my daughter whose children are age-appropriate for this discussion, I wanted to know how they handled it. As with most, their family prays for a quick resolution and peace. Their 14 and 11-year-old have an understanding from all of the news reports. The 8-year-old has questions which they answer honestly, but without unnecessary details. The children’s main worry doesn’t center on themselves, but what they can do to help the citizens.
It is my fervent wish as I write this that the fighting has ended and that our prayers will continue for the Ukrainians who have been forced to flee their homes; that they be comforted and aided by their fellow man; that countries come together to help them with their needs and in the rebuilding of their lives; and that the world will never experience such evil ever again.
I realize the age of innocence is a thing of the past, but we owe it to our grandchildren to allow them to experience the joys of childhood. They shouldn’t be burdened with grownup worries – those will still come earlier than they should. May the recent strife make us more aware of how our lives have changed no matter how far away from the violence of war we are. We are terrified if our grandchildren slip out of sight for even a moment. We walk or drive them to a friend’s house. We are always vigilant. Are they aware of how protective we are? I doubt it as this has been the norm since the day they were born.
I think of April as the month of renewal. May this month renew our faith in mankind that the world will finally and forever be at peace and our grandchildren’s children will never have to have these discussions. In the words of singer Edwin Starr – “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”