While we ate dinner on Sept. 11, I mentioned to Eleanor that it was an important day for our country.
“I know,” she said. “It’s the day the planes flew into buildings.”
I asked her how she knew, and she said that her teacher had talked about it that day. I wanted to give her teacher a high-five, though I also wondered how other parents would feel about that talk. I know some parents who completely shield their children from the news. I also know a lot of parents who are journalists and have conversations with their 5-year-olds about ISIS.
My openness to having serous discussions with Eleanor is largely shaped by two things. First, she knows that she has a sister who died, so preserving her innocence has never really been an option. Second, I want my children to be interested in the world and passionate about helping to solve problems. I’ve noticed that when I read interviews with leaders, they often cite childhood dinners as a source of inspiration. They became interested in tackling a particular problem because they heard their parents talk about it.
Also, at some point my children will have to learn about the world. It seems easier to wade in rather than pushing them into the deep end when I deem them mature enough. And when would that be? Even I don’t feel old enough to handle the Syrian refugee crisis.
Lately, Eleanor has voiced anger about the number of people who drive their children to school in the morning instead of walking. She is worried about coral reefs. So we’ve talked about electric cars, city planning, and the need for people to arrive at their jobs on time.
Last night, we tackled the presidential race. We asked her a few questions — about taxes, immigration, and the environment — to try to discern which political party she would fall into. We talked about how politics can be a source of friction amongst families and friends. She was interested in seeing a woman get elected (I’m sure that was completely her own idea. No outside influence there at all.). She asked me the names of the female candidates, and I told her. She said that she wanted Carly Fiorina to win. I asked her why.
“Because that’s a really cool name,” she said.
Yes, we are delving deep here.