Recently, I saw an article in a morning feed I often browse before the rest of the family gets up (I choose that time because it’s just about the only free time I get during the day). This article stood out to me a bit more than it may have otherwise because of the movie Oppenheimer, which is about the man behind the development of the US Atomic Bomb.
The anniversary the article noted was the first use of nuclear weapons when the US bombed Hiroshima with the famous Fat Man. (Now the opening date of the film made more sense to me, those Hollywood marketers aren’t dumb). But it raised a new question for me in terms of my role as a parent and mentor.
The decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945 has come under renewed scrutiny of late, for reasons I won’t pretend I totally understand, but no doubt the public attention due to Oppenheimer has something to do with it. (I won’t use the space of this article to attempt to hash out those debates, nor do I feel qualified to do so.)
The issue it raised for me: do I have a responsibility to share or commemorate these types of historic events with my kids?
Admittedly, this particular topic might be a little more controversial than other historic events, but the question remains the same whether it’s a military event (e.g. D-Day) or something perhaps a little more lighthearted like the invention of the waterslide (which was November 1st, 1906 in New Zealand, by the way).
Of course, every day of the year has some historic event connected to it. So we then come down to the “who” and “what” of the question to help filter them out and choose those that are both topical, appropriate and respectful.
First, are my kids old enough to appreciate it, and is it suitable for them? How do you explain the use of Atomic Weapons to a 4-year-old? But when they’re 12, they probably have sufficient imagination and awareness of things like bombs and war to have that type of discussion.
Next, do I even know enough about the topic to share it and share my feelings about it should this turn into a more detailed discussion? I’d hate to bring up the anniversary of an important event and not be able to answer at least a few basic questions that follow before I have to refer to the internet.
An additional consideration is whether or not they’re likely to run across the topic organically, either online or from friends or teachers at school. At the very least, I think it’s worth being aware of what historic anniversaries seem to be in the public discourse, either upcoming or ‘today’, so I can be ready to discuss should they bring it up. Yes, kids like to be in the know and it’s actually socially crucial for them- at least as important as having the right haircut and a new Trapper-Keeper each year…ok, the Trapper-Keeper thing was a bit of a joke. And now you know how old I am!
One game I have decided to start playing while we’re out driving, to school or to the store, is to have a topic ready to go. Yes, that means I am doing a few minutes of ‘homework’ a couple of times a week, but instead of plugging the kids into a Disney movie on their iPad or Fire, it’s ok to spend the time sharing there. At least once in a while.
For me, I’m making a concerted effort to be a little more aware of historic anniversaries that might be worthy of sharing. Plus, it’s fun for me, too!
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