My 7-year-old son had a cold this week so I kept him home one day to rest.
I still haven’t recovered.
Just a few extra hours together has produced a maelstrom of unexpected conversations – each one darker and more complicated than the last.
I pride myself on being fairly unflappable. I’ve read the parenting books and web sites. I can handle gross bodily functions and private part curiosity. I was ready for the “tough” inquiries about how babies are made and why some kids are bullies. But that stuff is Mickey Mouse parenting compared to the questions you can’t even begin to anticipate.
Let’s set the stage, shall we?
My son decided a few weeks ago that for his 2nd Grade geography project he was going to focus on Korea. Great, we said, let’s go to the library and get out some books. While there, my husband explained that there are actually two Koreas today – North and South. He went on to say that they’re very different places.
And, of course, our kid just had to choose North Korea. (Have I mentioned his penchant for being contrary?)
So we’ve been immersed in discussions about dictatorships, closed societies, spying and the like. And that led us to spending part of our sick day working on a diorama of the Freedom Bridge, a part of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that spans the Han River and connects the two Koreas.
Needless to say, my son’s popsicle-stick bridge is complete with pipe-cleaner barbed wire. Army men from Party City are waiting patiently on our kitchen table for their rightful place to stand guard in our makeshift scene.
So, with North Korea in the forefront of his mind, my son’s ears were on high alert for geo-political controversy.
When he heard about the Day of Remembrance on the radio, he asked me what it was.
As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, we are raising our children Jewish (although my husband is Protestant by birth). And while we’ve never shied away from discussing religion in our home, the Holocaust hadn’t come up – until sick day, that is.
So I tentatively began explaining genocide to my child while parking our SUV in the Publix lot. Gotta say, it’s a strange dichotomy of danger and safety – talking death camps while holding hands to cross the parking lot.
I skimmed over the gory details but he got the idea – a mad man decided all Jews (and anyone else he didn’t like) must die, including our relatives. My son walked away knowing we must never let that happen again to anyone of any faith or ethnicity.
Heavy stuff, no doubt.
But it was only to get heavier come dinnertime, when – out of the blue – my son told me that our 11-year-old neighbor told him that a man can go to the hospital and get an operation to become a woman.
“Is that true, Mom?” he asked incredulously.
“Um, well, people can do lots of things at hospitals, but that’s not something we need to discuss right now,” I said, thus shutting the door on the day’s question-and-answer period.
So my unflappability failed me. And while I could handle the Holocaust, I got squeamish with the sex-change talk.
Seems I’m not the Mommy I thought I was. And to prove my point, the next time one of the kids gets sick, I’m thinking Daddy can stay home.