Aftermath: Disaster Through the Eyes of a Child
Did you hear about the bad tornado that happened yesterday?
Bristol: “Who? Gloria (daycare provider) said a thunderstorm hitted something.”
Paris: “Yes. I heard that it was enormous and we got to look at it closely. We heard it on Fox 4.”
Do you know the name of the city of Joplin, Missouri?
Paris: “Yes, because we have a book in my first grade class and we go to page 640 and it shows a map of the United States and I look closely and I saw Kansas City and then I went on the other page and it showed me Missouri and then that’s it.”
Bristol: “No, I don’t.”
Do you remember when we went to see Grandma a few months ago and we stopped to eat at the buffet and Bowser stayed in the car?
Bristol: “Yeah, Paris puked blue and then we went back home.”
Paris: “Yeah, I did puke. Oh, my God. I can’t believe Mom just wrote that.”
*I show the boys a picture of Ryan’s Steakhouse in Joplin that I found on Google maps.*
Did you know that was in Joplin?
*I show the boys a road map of the city of Joplin and then I begin showing them pictures of the damage to those same areas.*
Paris: “Those pictures are bad and sad. I think they are damaged from the big storm.”
Bristol: “Because the tornado hitted a store and it hitted cars and it hitted houses and eating places and cars.”
Do you guys think anyone got hurt?
I then showed a few videos to the boys. The most touching one was the one that they couldn’t even see anything. I think that because of the fact that they couldn’t see the physical damage happening, they could sense the emotional distress and fear of living through the tornado. The boys audibly gasped and would utter, “Oh, my God” or “Whoa” or “Bad Ending”. At one point, Paris leaned over with his head on my shoulder and I could sense the sadness in him and I could see a single tear forming in his eye. He remained on my shoulder for the rest of our conversation.
I guess you want to know my point to all of this and to me it’s fairly obvious. I don’t choose to hide my children from the terrible acts of Mother Nature or the cruelness of the world. I would rather shield them from the hurt that is inevitable but let them experience life as much as they can. I want my boys to get an understanding of humanitarian efforts and I want them to learn how to problem solve to help their fellow people. When I first started talking to them, they had no idea what they could do to help anyone or even where to start. They thought that there was nothing that they could do to make a difference and that because they were little, they were helpless. Things were different after looking at the pictures and watching the videos and it all took was for a parent to make the decision to educate their child.
After watching the videos the first responses the boys had were that they would go and search all of the cars and houses for people. Then they moved on to grander ideas, like rebuilding the entire city all on their own. I explained to them that the point of this whole “talk” was for me to help them decide what they could do to make a difference. The boys almost in unison said, “We would teach everyone to go to their basement and duck down and cover their heads.”. I asked them what they think that they could do since it already happened and they ranged from donating all of their toys to kids without them to searching for all of the animals and reuniting them with their families. I asked the boys what would happen if they found an animal and all of that pet’s family had died and they simply responded, “Well, we would rescue them Silly!” I feel a moment of pure joy at the words I just heard. They really do get it. A 5 and 6 year old understand what it takes to help the world, they just need a chance to show it. Paris asked if all of the people knew to get their animals to safety, too and I told him that a lot of people do try and save their pets. Paris seemed to think that pets were just as important as people and that since pets are helpless that someone in the family needs to cover them with their own bodies to protect them. That conversation went to one of me begging my boys to let me deal with covering everyone’s bodies if I ever had to. There was no question about the fact that Bowser and Oreo are just as important as us, the boys have made many trips to the basement where I was dragging all of our critters down with us. We have drills, we talk about safety and I teach the boys about what to look for in bad weather. They watch the news and give me up to the minute reports of what is happening. They can also point out exactly where we are at on a US map, regional map and state map. They can even point to the county and EXACT location of where we live! This is very important and something that all of our children need to know so they can save their own life and maybe that of someone else.
For 30 minutes, I had the boys undivided attention. They listened intently, they raised their hands with input and they answered questions. Most importantly, we talked… about real life and about how they can make a difference in the world. I fully believe that my boys would risk their own life to help save another’s. I also know that they will educate their peers, donate to charitable causes and that they will want to play Angry Birds on my cell phone when I am done explaining to them how much life can suck sometimes.