We try to protect our children – some of us. Thinking some realities are too harsh to introduce to our children. Wait we think. Let’s wait. Wait. Until they are older. They don’t need to know this yet. We call that period before they know that everything that matters is fragile and subject to loss, that the world can be dangerous – we call that ‘before’ period, innocence.
We see the unlined, unfurrowed faces of the innocent. Wide open. Curious and eager. No idea what’s behind door number two, three. What monsters lurk there. How it feels to look over our shoulder as we leave Eden. The world of an innocent child. Simple. Trusting. Curious.
When are we supposed to learn that loss is inevitable, that suffering is real and pain a part of living? Who teaches us how to grieve and go on? When are we taught that there are people who intentionally inflict cruelty on others? When are we taught to recognize them?
I know adults who worry a lot about what middle school kids know about sex (everything). But do we worry about when to tell them how to be in the world? How to live in the world as it is with all the losses and struggles? How to express the pain of loss? How to carry what can’t be changed or avoided?
When do we begin to teach them about people to avoid and what to do when someone hurts you or someone else? On purpose.
My son was 18 when he said to me “you know Mom, you never told me there were bad people in the world” and he was right. By then he had figured it out. Many of us are bravely having other hard conversations with our children but not the one about how to recognize dangerous hate-filled people. How to live with loss and betrayal.
At what age did you learn that people you love could die? At what age did you learn that there were people who chose bad as a way of life and hurting others as a course of action? That not everyone tells the truth? How old were you when you learned these realities and who taught you how to carry hardship, betrayal and loss and go on?
PS : there is a connection between innocence and privilege. It’s a form of privilege to be protected, insulated from loss and failings. For many children a sense of safety, of protection, security, of being cherished – short lived.