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Too much information? Or maybe a learning experience?

January 24, 2013 - Kristy MacKaben
Ever have one of those moments when you think you probably just shared way too much information with your child? Well, I had one of those tonight. It all started with reading one of the historical American Girl books to Julie, and ended with an indepth conversation about the Holocaust and slavery. Let me rewind. The book in question has nothing to do with either World War II or slavery, but it has everything to do with an American girl named Caroline who is growing up at the start of the War of 1812. In the chapter we read tonight, Caroline's father is captured as a prisoner of war by the British. This completely baffled and scared Julie. "Why would they take her Daddy when he did nothing wrong? That makes me so scared." So, then of course I had to explain the concept behind the whole idea of prisoners of war, and also what happened during the War of 1812, why America and Great Britain weren't friends, and how they later became allies. This led to a discussion about how in more recent wars America and Great Britain fought together, most significantly (in my mind at least) in World War II. At first I attempted to be vague, by explaining that a man named Hitler, who was ruling Germany at the time did very bad things, and he was trying to take over the entire world. Julie pressed some more, and I eventually gave in and told her a little about the Holocaust. She was shocked and tearful, and I had to hug her for a while. She then equated the cruelty toward Jewish people in Germany to the cruelty toward black people in America during the Civil Rights era. (Can you tell she has just been studying MLK?) So, then that led to the even more awful history of slavery, and the Civil War. By the end of our (at least) hour-long history lesson, I'm not sure whether I scarred her for life, or got her thinking about the deeper lessons these terrible moments in history can teach us. How young is too young to learn about such stuff? I know it has not yet been taught to Julie in school, but sometimes I feel like when the moment arises, you seize it. I want her to know these things because these atrocities should never be forgotten, lest they happen again.


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