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Trying To Explain The World To My Son (Questions) – Extended Version

2013-03-15_15-55-45_618 (1)aI first posted this article last year. I’ve expanded, and now am reposting, the article.

I think it’s important to remember: We have but to listen… and we’ll hear their myriad of questions. Our children are in the process of discovering their world, testing those limits. Interspersed through the questions are realities of the world, with the pain, death and loss. My hope is that my son will see that change is possible… and that someday he won’t fear the world he sees (as he explains the world to his own children).


My son is nearly 2 (and a half) years old. I know, in the next few years, I will need to answer some tough and not-so-tough questions that he will have. Questions like:

  • “Dada, why is the sky blue?”
  • “Dada, why can’t I have ice cream before bed?”
  • “Dada, why do my brother and me have different last names?”
  • “Dada, why are some people mean to other people?”
  • “Dada, why do people die?” and (of course)
  • “Dada, why can’t T-Rex beat Optimus Prime?”

These are just some of what he may/will ask me, so how do I answer him? The easy questions are: “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why no ice cream before bed?” Those, I’m sure I’ve got those covered–with relative ease. But, what about the tough questions? How do I handle those? Yea, I have a few years (maybe) to think about them, so why think about it now? Well, for me it is a 2-fold problem, as:

  1. I am a dork who worries way too much, and …
  2. My answer may change  by the time he asks me, if I don’t think about it now.

I have learned that time changes us–alters and transforms our view on some things, as we may become more callused and harder (or softer and flexible–malleable) on certain things. I have also learned that some answers deserve to be pondered and should be well thought-out–with much weighting-in of all the information and experts–as I consider it from multiple points of view, and attempt to discern the “right” way to go (and then attempt to explain these often difficilt, life changing concepts to my son. In my youth, I would just rush headlong into something–without thinking, just catapulting myself into the situation (where angels feared to tread). I am reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln,

“There is another old poet whose name I do not now remember who said, ‘Truth is the daughter of Time.'”

The world is a tough place, a scary place–full of bad people. It’s a place that holds onto ideals (and thinking) that are often better left in the past. It is also a place quite the opposite of all that: full of good people, who are capable of great feats of utter bravery and heart wrenching act of sacrifice, forgiveness, and love–even in the face of pain, death and loss of everything they hold most dear.

We read or see it all on tv–in such vivid, devastating horror that it can’t help but force us ever closer to the brink of hopelessness, despair and desperation. But, our world has warmth, love and forgiveness, if you just know where to look for it. The world has joy in it. And, these are the emotive environs we need to hold onto for our kids. We need to share that hope wirh them, help them believe in the possibilities in themselves and their fellow human beings. Home is a place we all should experience joy and hope, with an ever-present assurance of safety, security and and an immeasurable dose of love. I am about to go all geek-tastic, but I would love for my son to live in a future like the Star-Trek Universe, where there is no hunger and no greed, where the color of  one’s skin or who you love makes no difference.

I know that is pie-in-the-sky thinking but, like most parents, I want my child to live in a better place than I have. I want him to be shielded from what the “real world” is, and I don’t want him to lose track of hope or his implacable vision of futurity. I want to teach my son that change can come–be it one small, step at a time (or all at once). Maybe what I should tell my son is to remember this speech from November 19, 1863:

” Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

By telling  him where we came from, I hope to show him where we should be headed. Taking those small steps–to a better tomorrow, where my pie-in-the-sky dreams are not so-crazy, after-all. So like another man who, ” have a dream” I hope we can all get there.” I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”   “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ” – Dr. Martin Luther KingJr  August 28, 1963

I am not afraid of explaining the world to my son–I am afraid of what I see in the world. My hope is when he has to have those talks with his children, he won’t be afraid of the world he sees.

About Don Jackson

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