Remembrance Day is a tricky one for the preschool/primary set, isn’t it? As parents, we think we should probably tell them about it, so we give a simple explanation, and then they are full of questions. About war, and death, and freedom, and poppy-covered graves. I’m pleased that my kids are full of questions, and usually I don’t have trouble telling them the truth, but in the case of Remembrance Day, I find the answers to be rather complicated.
Here are some of the reasons why:
– In Canada it always feels like we are so far from the fight, and that our freedom as a nation hasn’t really even been directly threatened.
– War is a terrible thing, involving lots and lots of death and pain and evil. It is difficult to convey the importance and significance of its existence, both in the past and in the present, without either minimizing it or scaring the heck out of my (thankfully) sheltered and safe kids.
– Kids have difficulty understanding nuance, and (possibly thanks to the majority of kids’ TV shows and books they enjoy) mine really want everything to be “good guys versus bad guys.” It can be intimating to explain that war, and PEOPLE, are a lot more complex than that.
– We tell them that violence is not the answer when they clock their sister on the head with a Barbie doll, but here we are, dedicating a whole day to those who were themselves required to be violent. This has the potential to be confusing, and as a parent it can seem like avoiding the whole topic is the easiest option.
But despite the fact that their questions are complicated, I think they are still absolutely worth asking, and I’ll keep trying my best to answer them for my kids. Because here’s what else I know:
– There are, right now, Canadian soldiers who are fighting for the freedom and safety of strangers, far from home. This may not have the same simplicity as “fighting for our freedom,” but isn’t it amazing and commendable? Even more so? What an example of selflessness and sacrifice for my kids to hear about and learn from.
– War is a terrible, awful thing. If we do not face it, learn about it, and talk about it to our children, they will not know the lengths to which they must go to avoid it when they are the leaders of our world and the shapers of our policies. There is a thin tightrope we parents must walk between telling the truth and scaring our kids, but we have to do our best. Parenting is hard, folks, but if we can do the late-night feedings and the potty training and the endless school permission slips, surely we can do this too.
– They want it to be “good guys versus bad guys” but it isn’t. I’m just going to tell them that. Life is complicated. War might be mostly “complex people versus complex people,” but there are some people who do evil things, and it is important to try to stop them.
– Violence isn’t the answer, and Remembrance Day may be a good opportunity to talk about how important it is to avoid. We take a day to commemorate those who have suffered because of violence, and the fact that they did so for the sake of others.
So it might be tricky to deal with Remembrance Day with our little kids, but we don’t need to ignore it. Take your day off and spend time together as a family, or watch a lot of Dora and wish they were in school, like I’m planning to do. However, I might actually encourage a moment of silence at 11:11am, in which only the babies are allowed to make noise. Then maybe I’ll even consider dragging my husband over to sing our country’s national anthem with us. I know that in my house, it’s time my kids learned that this is song is good to sing and to remember, and not just when we win another curling medal in the winter Olympics. We can sing it together, and be thankful for the Canadians who came before us, and who wear our flag as they fight and work on our behalf today.
God keep our land, glorious and free,
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.