Imagine being a kid; any age over four. Unless you are well north of age 100, you have never seen anything like this. Adults fighting about everything and demonstrating some levels of rudeness not seen since the school bussing controversy in the 1970s where people fought in the streets over whether or how to promote integration.
Kids can’t understand this. Why are adults so angry? From a child’s point of view, we just did the Halloween thing. It’s time now to slip into Thanksgiving and the magic of Christmas or Kwanza or Hanukah, right?
So this week kids are watching television news about illness rates and death rates and seeing video every bit as sad and creepy as last spring. Then they watch parents of all stripes, from intact and separated families, spar over whether they can cross-township lines, county lines, or state lines to share a single meal with Uncle Sol and Aunt Selma. Mom and dad are yelling at each other, “It’s not safe. Our kids could get sick. Our elderly relatives could die.” In response, “You’re crazy; we need to get back our way of life. This is all exaggerated if not entirely fabricated.”
For a child, could there be a worse way to celebrate “the holidays?” People screaming and swearing on television. They turn it off and then watch it live. All so that we can celebrate our families, right? Nothing like the childhood memories of having mother call father a selfish boor and an idiot while father announces that he could give a damn what mother thinks because his children will celebrate with family this year. Celebration, indeed. Nothing signals celebration more than two parents screaming at each other over whether you will eat turkey at home or the turkey in neighboring Ohio.
I write this as I am presiding over some of this warfare and it makes me angry. Arguably I should be celebrating myself because lawyers charge good money to preside overs fights about where the turkey is consumed.
Then common sense overcomes me. It’s not often. But I ask; what’s to celebrate when you are a child and the people you are taught every day to love and cherish spend their days leading up to a national day of prayer and Thanksgiving by shouting, slamming doors and yelling at children who are upset by this? Now, that’s a holiday, right? Especially when one parent goes nuclear and yells that even though I’m just a kid, if I do go to Ohio, I could DIE or bring about the demise of Aunt Selma. No pressure there, right? Selma and I will be buried as heroes in the wars over freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving.
If you are engaged in this conflict, or about to be, please stop and ask yourself how your kids are supposed to process this. Whatever the cause, a lot of people are dying this year and kids are hearing that something bad is in the air. They are scared because they want to be safe and they want you to be safe because they love you. Respect both their love and their fear even if you think their fear is unwarranted. They get scared because they think there are critters outside who might eat them. The risk posed by those critters, as well as lightning, aliens and terrorists is pretty modest in America. Yet, we do respect those fears. I happen to think the fear of respiratory illness is a bit more real than critters. However, my thoughts are unimportant. Think about your kid’s fear and do the right thing to address it when you plan a day to give thanks.