20 February 2011

saturday conversations on the black top

We had an odd, premature taste of spring yesterday with the sun shining brightly in the sky throughout most of the day. Sun and warmth mean many things in the paese, one of which is that the children who have been restricted to finding creative activities indoors finally go outside to play.  For Young One, this is nothing less than heaven on earth. She has learned that if she heads out alone, one kid or the other will inevitably soon join her. This was the case Saturday when three other children appeared shortly after she and I headed out back with our sidewalk chalk.


After a few rounds of hopscotch, I headed to the garden and left her with a same-aged friend for outdoor adventures, likely with an argument or two. After a bit of pruning (don't think I really know what I'm doing in this garden), I noticed that he had captured her attention as he rambled and she sat engaged and speechless. This is not exactly normal behavior for these two, so I decided to move to the other side of the garden and have a listen. What can he possibly be discussing that has her so enthralled?

I was shocked. He was telling stories of World War II.  I'm still unsure of what he said before I began eavesdropping, but when I tuned in, he was describing people being forced onto trains and people being burned alive in ovens. He was confident. He had details. He is six. Finally, Young One, not sure what to say about this, asked him: "How do you know this? Who told you these things?" Evidently, his mathematics teacher is his source of information. Having recently observed Holocaust Remembrance Day at the end of January, this seems plausible that he learned it in school. I distracted them both and changed the direction of the conversation.


Wow. These children are six-years-old. What good can possibly come of explaining the horrid details of a concentration camp to a six-year-old child? I don't get it. I believe in being honest with children, but how can a six-year-old possibly process, possibly understand, possibly conceive these horrors without understanding the context? I don't believe in avoiding tough topics with children, but I do believe adults are responsible to have an understanding of what is age-appropriate, and in my humble opinion, gory details of concentration camps are not appropriate for first graders. My opinion is supported by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, by the way.

Later that day his mom stopped by for a visit. I described the exchange to her, and she confirmed that he has indeed been obsessed with the topic since hearing it at school. He has also become extremely worried and fearful.


I wish people would think more, I really do.


  1. Six year olds should not have to worry about such things. This conversation is more appropriate for 12 year olds. I hope young one doesn't stress out too much about it.

  2. Your are a good mother for listening in and stopping that conversation...and you are completely right about your belief and knowledge of too much information at a young age. My now, adult children, often tell of the things that scared the "He_ _" out of them when they were younger,things I would never have dreamt would scare them,for instance,what I thought adorable,the Ewoks in the stars wars movie, Return of the Jedi. Who would have known? What we as adults might think harmless, can leave horrible mental lasting effects on a child. Though we won't be able to protect them from everything, we can try while we are with them. Keep up the good work Mama...

  3. That's a really heavy topic for a child of that age. Wow.

    I can remember asking my mother about the Holocaust around age 10 and she discussed some parts of it with me, but age 6. That's just too young! Glad you nipped that in the bud.

  4. How sad and disturbing that a teacher of such young students should even consider discussing such a topic!

  5. I'm sure that the teacher meant no harm, just the opposite, in fact.

  6. oh man...i know it is inevitable that my children will pick up things from other kids that i wish they hadn't. i'm dreading the day.

    ro has recently been very interested in WWII. though he knows nothing about it, it makes my heart ache to watch him blithely leading his sisters in a rousing game of WWII.