I used to try to protect my sons from news about what was going on in the world. If they walked into the room while I was watching the evening news, I frantically changed the channel. If they were playing nearby and I thought they may be watching in the background, I turned it off. My hyper-awareness about protecting them from real world news even extended to my quest to keep them from hearing about bad things that happened only miles away, in places close to our world -- the second grader who drowned at the nearby day camp; the dead body found on the trail behind the elementary school; the friend's father arrested for selling cocaine. This neighborhood stuff is information I can control, I thought. Now, I've given up a bit of that control. I let them watch the news and at least a few times a week, we look at the front page of the newspaper together often.
Because when it comes to tackling many important topics I'm dying to discuss with my sons, now 7 and 11, news stories can get through to them in ways I can't. It brings my urgings to "Be Careful!" to life.
My kids curiosity about "energy" drink ads sparked lots of questions. Then, the news story about the five teens who died drinking too many energy drinks. "Just don't ever try them," I warned. They nod in agreement.
The importance of appreciating all the shopping we were doing for back to school? It suddenly sunk in they were "lucky" was when we saw a photo of a hundred tired moms and kids lining up at dawn for free backpacks from the county -- our county, where usually the only kids they see sport the most expensive Under Armour backpacks packed with fancy three-ring notebooks.
The meaning of American kids' freedom to play ball outside rang more true once they saw boys their age marching on the streets of Kabul amid the raging violence.
News anchors talking about studies showing kids who sleep better cope better, who eat breakfast think better and who read more often read better -- all my advice saying the same made sense now. (When I'd said the same thing, it barely sunk in.)
The boy in the ESPN story was my older son's exact age as he sat talking to a reporter about the concussion he'd gotten during tackle football practice. He'd never play again. He'd never walk again, either. That caught my son's attention. He was two weeks into his own first season of tackle football and was already shrugging of my "Be careful" warnings before practices and games. But I noticed he remembered his helmet a little more quickly after that segment.
Yet, there are some things in the world I'm not ready to let them see. I quickly turn the channel on the unfortunate multitude of stories about missing kids' bodies being discovered. The Krim family's New York nanny tragedy won't be watched here. Stories about genetic testing for some diseases and what the presidential election may mean to abortion rights are just things I don't think they're ready for. I may be aware, but I'm not crazy. Some topics are still best left unsaid, in our house, for now.