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Mammals, terrorists, and Disney

My kids are currently obsessed with eggs.

Any eggs. Kinder Surprise Eggs. Baby chicks hatching out of eggs. Ants laying eggs. Nests. And cheetahs hatching out of eggs...er...let me back up. My son doesn't understand mammals. We've had the talk several times. And he gets that mammals don't hatch, but I think it presents him with a kind of philosophical quandary. Every other creature--fish, birds, insects, reptiles, dinosaurs--seems to come from an egg. He seems to feel ripped off. It makes no sense...there's no rational explanation for why we mammals do it differently. (We'll ignore egg-laying mammals for now.)

Now that's the kind of question that bothers me as to how to answer as a parent. Why don't mammals lay eggs? It's like my 4 year old asking how big the universe is or why are we here. No way to make that answer age-appropriate without feeling like I'm doing him a scientific disservice.

On the other hand, my kids comprehend bad guys. With the anniversary of 9/11 today, a lot of parents are wondering how to explain the events of that day to their little ones. But the actual violence of people flying planes into buildings isn't so hard for a 2 or 4 year old. Preschoolers understand bad guys.

Though we're still at the stage during movies that sometimes it's too intense and scary. We had a discussion last night while watching some videos on my phone that was educational for me though. Cole asked about whether the good guys would win. That was his problem. So cute that he doesn't yet understand the trope that the good guys will always win. For us as adults, the movie is enjoyable because we know, deep down, that the villain will be defeated. The worse the villain, the more joy in watching because we already know the result. For him, it's a kind of existential anxiety though. Will they? Will they really? Me reassuring him that they always will seemed to click a light bulb.

The more I thought about that, however, the more intriguing our conversation became. Why do we tell stories with heroes and villains? Is it to reassure ourselves that the world turns out that way? Is it a reflection of our hopes or reality? Deep down, do adults think the heroes usually win? I'd offer that we do believe in that world. It was at the heart of the President's speech last night, that's for sure.

During my run this morning, I was pondering the more difficult issues of 9/11 that would need to be explained down the road. Things that a whole generation of people younger than the event don't understand about the post-9/11 world. There's the rise of Islamophobia immediately after, for one. A lot of Americans with a very negative, twisted view of Muslims. (We've come along way in understanding that terrorists are not really Muslims.) There was a wave of flag-waving and trying to pin terrorism as somehow about hatred of "our freedoms." Like somehow political regimes, inequality, and economics didn't have more to do with it and it was really a culture war.

We got sucked into a war searching for the leaders of the movement who attacked us...and we wouldn't find those leaders, some of them, until a whole other Presidential administration. But we also got sucked into a war thinking there were weapons of mass destruction in unrelated Iraq. Both of those wars cost billions and led to a black, liberal in the White House along with a change of heart after early backing of the previous wars. A decade later, most Americans came to disagree with the post-9/11 wars. And now, as my children grow up not having lived through it, it seems so silly. Like rounding up Japanese during WWII or segregation. Was the previous generation that dumb?

Speaking for myself, most of my peers had only just voted in their first election in 2000 (remember that one) so luckily/unluckily a lot of the Bush years we had little control over. Still, how to explain all this narrative history to our children? It made little sense while living through it. Yet we watched it happen and couldn't do much to stop it. Is this how some people feel about the 1960's? The 1930's?

In conclusion...mammals? Hard to explain. Humanity's violence? Easy to explain. Disney movies? Easy to explain. How crazy the world was after 9/11? Hard to explain. Fortunately, I have a few more years to ponder most of the truly difficult questions about life that my kids will be asking.

Maybe by then I'll have some answers of my own.

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