Growing up, I remember my mother and father, after dinner, would retire to a small den and crack open the daily paper while the evening news hummed in the background. My sister, brother, and I would be in the kitchen cleaning up.
I was an aware child, I remember asking parents at 9 what rape was. I remember the Quebec independence debates when I was 10. I knew enough to understand how and why my parents voted before I was 10. I don’t know if my mom and dad always had the news on in the background or not, but I had a small idea of what was going on in the world.
Not my kids.
And I’m fine with that.
My kids go to a french school. It’s a multicultural, multi faith school with every shade of emoji represented in the hallways and a diversity of deity beliefs. There’s Jewish kids, Muslim kids, Christians, Catholics, and atheists. There are kids from Nigeria, Lebanon, the US, Canada, China, and beyond. It’s a wonderful place for my children to grow up, surrounded by a microcosm of the world’s cultures.
How can I explain to them that a small group of people follow an extreme aspect of a religion and are using it to stir up Islamophobia in the west? How do you explain to an 8 and 5 yr old this very complicated 4 sided war in Syria and Iraq when so many adults are spamming their Facebook walls with propaganda, misinformation, xenophobia and hate?
Simple. I don’t. I have not talked to my kids about Paris this weekend.
Instead I have dug through my Flickr files to find pictures of that spring when we visited France as a family, and I have shown them the pictures at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and kissing on the plaza outside Notre Dame. I have not talked to them about how a small handful of radicals burst into a multicultural neighbourhood and murdered more than 100 people.
Because I can’t explain it to myself.
My brother in law is from France. He grew up in Lyon and has friends and family in Paris. My sister and he have friends who live in the area of the shootings. I have another dear friend who lives in Paris. When the news broke on Friday afternoon, I quickly tracked down my friends, found they were safe, and then I turned off the news as soon as I went to pick up my boys from school.
When the Boston bombings happened, we watched Bubble Guppies, this time we unwound after their week with KC Undercover on Disney Channel. I sat at the other end of the couch, pecking away at my phone, reading the tweets as events unfolded, my boys blissfully unaware.
As they should be.
One French news outlet issued a special edition this weekend targeted at the 7-11 yr old set. It’s a great idea to explain to local kids who are likely surrounded by shock and grief and fear. Here? Half a world away?
No. I don’t need to talk to my kids about the events in Paris.