The Mindful Mom Series with Mallika Chopra
My 7-year-old daughter has asked me to repeat the same story 5 times this past week. She wants to know how I felt when I thought my brother (her uncle) was on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11.
She wants to know how the planes flew into the buildings in NYC. Did we see it happen? How many people died?
Why did they do it? Who are they? Are Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein the same people? Are they, “they”? She wants to know who Hitler is, because she knows he is a bad person too.
Somehow “terrorism” became a word she wants to understand. I’m not sure if anything in particular triggered it this week or that suddenly stories, impressions, questions are coming together.
Life experiences from the last few years have created a puzzle of emotions, all needing to come together in one cohesive story. Like when she realized in Kindergarten that she could only go to the school she is at because of Martin Luther King – that she looks different from her classmates. Or how vulnerable and helpless she felt in the playground when two friends pulled her in different directions. Or the incredible beauty of hearing the Muslim prayers at dusk in Istanbul.
She is trying to grasp what it means to be scared, vulnerable, judged, hurt, killed. She is trying to understand why she hears people feel nervous about Muslims or black kids in hoods.
I wrote a book, 100 Questions from My Child, years ago when my elder daughter (then 3, now 10) asked me, “Mommy, what’s a bomb?” Seven years later, the questions remain the same, but each answer brings up more and more questions. And I am finding It harder and harder to answer them.
Why would anyone want to hurt – or even kill – other people in the way they did on 9/11? We go back to her feeling of helplessness and vulnerability on the playground when her friends were pulling her and she felt she couldn’t do anything about it. Is this the best way to explain it to her?
She wants to know if we went to war because of 9/11. Yes, I explain. Or yes, I guess… because we went into Iraq, even though Osama Bin Laden planned the attacks and was in Afghanistan. She asks, “But mommy, shouldn’t you know who did the bad things before you punish them?” Her innate wisdom and humanity astounds me.
I am reminded that being a parent is about engaging in the conversations, in the discovery with our children, and guiding them with values. It’s about being patient, admitting we don’t have all the answers, and figuring out together how we navigate this sometimes, very confusing world.