Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kid Fears

When I was a child I was convinced that a nuclear war was imminent, that the entire Northern Hemisphere would be destroyed, and that the only sensible course of action was to move immediately to New Zealand. You couldn't drag me there now, of course. Unless I could go there in stages. London-Boston-Seattle-Hawaii-Auckland or something along those lines. There's no way I'm spending 26 hours on an aeroplane. Looking back Carter and Brezhnev were a pretty stable pair to command their absurd respective arsenals but it didn't feel that way to my eight-year-old self. I was not sophisticated enough to appreciate the niceties of Mutually Assured Destruction, but I knew that hiding under a table would not protect me from a nuclear winter. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction - The Chrysalids, I remember, made a particular impression - and worried away in bed.

So, how do I protect my daughter from the night terrors? She is too young to recall the events of 9/11, but was affected by the London bombings in an oblique, childlike way. Kids don't forget anything of course, but I hope that once she becomes aware that the "Bombs" don't set themselves, and aren't an abstract evil, she won't grow suspicious of the Muslim classmates she now plays with without prejudice. I hope that she'll communicate her fears so that we can reassure her that they have no foundation. (This is a kind of hypocrisy, of course. When her godmother is away in Iraq or Afghanistan we fret about her, although she is probably more likely to sustain serious injury crossing the road in Sunbury.)

I'll tell her that it's Martians she needs to worry about. That'll do the trick.

1 comment:

beckperson said...

My childhood fear (I'm a little older than you) was that a stray Japanese soldier was hiding under my bed. Getting up in the morning, I'd jump as far away from it as I could to keep him from grabbing my ankles. Too many movies with my WWII Army vet Dad? I think so. :-)

But what I think this means is that every generation has a Boogie Man. Too bad that today's children (especially in the US, but elsewhere too) may have to worry about the one currently occupying the White House.

I think the Martians are a far better distraction for your child!