Bombs, Guns and Mr. Rogers
As a child, Mr. Rogers made me very uncomfortable.
It was mostly unconscious so I still watched the show, despite my uneasy feelings. It wasn't until a few years ago, when the film came out, that I ever really considered the reason behind my discomfort.
Fred Rogers was gentle and patient. He expressed kindness and unconditional love. These are all things that you would think a child would be drawn towards and many children were. But Mr. Rogers was such a sharp contrast to my own father---stern, urgent and intense. And my father was one of the only male adults in my life. So this contrast was confusing. This gentle man, with his soft, caring voice was surely something not to be trusted. And it would take me a long time and a lot of internal work before I began to trust gentle kindness and unconditional love---especially from men. It's still uncomfortable.
Because, you see, for better or worse, children adapt. Which means that even when the thing they experience the most isn't ideal or healthy, they will normalize it. And the beliefs, feelings and behaviors they acquire from those experiences will follow them throughout their life.
There are three young children that live next door.
The youngest was born in the Spring of 2020---"a pandemic baby," as her mother calls her. Recently, her two siblings both had Covid. My neighbor told me that while the older kiddos typically have big feelings about the nasal swab testing, the little one puts on her game face and "takes it like a champ." She has only known a pandemic reality, afterall. We joked, with a nod to writer Clarissa Pinkola Estes, that "she was made for these times." Because, you see, for better or worse, children adapt.
Last week, after the massacre in Uvalde, I saw a post online where a dad shared his conversation with his young son.
The father was visibly shaken and his son asked him if it was about the shooting. The son told his father, "don't worry dad, we train for this." Because, you see, for better or worse, children adapt.
When I was 20 years old, I was visiting my family in Beirut.
My cousins shared a story from their childhood where in the midst of a civil war, bombs were going off near their school. Their mother ran to get them and they all returned home safely as the explosions continued. I still remember how casual they were as they recounted the story. At the time, I didn't understand how they had normalized the experience.
Now I do. I really, really do.
Because, you see, for better or worse, children adapt.
But maybe they shouldn't have to.