We were piled into the truck and headed off to school this morning when we passed our favorite firetruck that had responded to an accident on our road. There was an ambulance and police officer on scene too. Two cars had smashed into each other...
I'm not sure how the subject switched... maybe it was the discussion about the 'crash' that triggered Ethan's memory, but he said that a plane crashed into a really tall building. I assumed that his teacher had mentioned 9/11 to the class on Friday... I asked him if he had heard about that at school. He said yes. I think these moments are defining as a parent... in a split second you can make or break a 'teaching moment'. In the past, I have tried very hard to give them the gentle truth (i.e. my 'all frogs go to heaven' death speech from last summer)... I try to be honest with them (i.e. I recently told Ethan that his 'pee pee' is actually his penis). I approached this topic the same way...
I explained that there are good guys and there are bad guys. I told him that a long time ago (it's a long time ago for a five year old... not so long ago for the rest of us) some really bad guys took over a plane so that the pilot couldn't fly it. I said that they flew the planes to two really tall towers and crashed them into the buildings. I told him that people tried very hard to get out of the buildings, but they fell down and a lot of people died. I explained that another plane was taken over and that those people on board tried very hard to take over the plane, but it still crashed. I told him about the pentagon and how bad guys flew a plane into it. I explained to him that because of those crashes, we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan in order to find the bad guys.
I told him that when he was a baby, Daddy went over to Iraq to fight the bad guys. Ethan commented that Marines were really good guys. I have to agree with him! I explained that Daddy's brother, Uncle Mike, was just coming home from his second time of fighting bad guys in Iraq. Ethan made another comment about the Marines. I explained that there were lots of Mommies and Daddies that were fighting the bad guys so that they never could do that again. I told him that because of Daddy and the military, planes were safe to go on and that he didn't have to be scared of planes (heaven forbid I give him an irrational fear of flying).
I went on to explain about the different branches of the military and that my brother, Uncle Mike, was joining the Navy to become a doctor so that he could help people while they fought the bad guys. If you thought that I gave a brief overview of the military, you are wrong. I explained about Naval ships and Airforce planes. I told him about how the Marines could call up the airforce and tell them to blow up that sign (the one advertising Staffords gas stations) and that the plane was so cool that it could fly by and only shoot that sign! He thought that was really cool... I explained about tanks and told him that his Uncle Mike (Daddy's brother) drove around in them. He started talking about tanks and how they shoot things. I told him that if he wanted to go into the military he could... just as soon as he finished college. I've always said he can do whatever he puts his mind to!
Anyway, you always wonder whether or not your kids are listening... on the way home from school we were sitting at a stoplight. Ethan piped up to Daddy, "Daddy, do you know that a tank can blow up that sign right there and it would be all gone?" and at dinner Sean started talking about 'the good guys and the bad guys'.
I can put today down as a 'good day' in my parenting handbook... not only did they listen, I may have actually taught them something too!