We are currently living through times unprecedented in so many ways. This being the case, politics is a frequent topic of discussion in our home. I am nearly certain this is not unusual. Growing up, I remember the word “Watergate” permeating many a discussion in my own childhood home. Now, nearly 50 years later, I find myself the father of three young daughters, daughters who want to know things, who want to understand the outrage their parents are feeling. Even my four-year-old wants to understand. And this can be challenging to explicate at times.
But other times, not so much.
Take, for example, the current administration’s policy of seizing immigrant families seeking asylum and locking them in cages at the southern border. This particular policy, just in terms of pure cruelty, has not been terribly difficult for my youngest daughter to grasp as reason for outrage (note: my wife and I do not discuss the fact that many children have been permanently separated from their parents- that detail is left out). When discussions of politics bubble up, this is an accessible entry point for my youngest.
A few nights ago at the dinner table, current events and politics once again surfaced as our topic of discussion. My oldest daughters asked, as they normally do, numerous questions, which prompted my youngest daughter to ask why kids and families are ending up detained in cages at the southern border. “Well,” I began, “a lot of those families are trying to get away from bad people in their home countries. They come here because they want to find a better life.”
“That’s like Babar,” interrupted my youngest. For a moment, we all sat, silently processing her statement. What was the connection? I wondered. She continued, “Babar was trying to get away from a hunter who got his mom. Remember?”
“Oh my goodness, you’re right, honey.” I suddenly caught onto the connection she was making to Jean de Brunhoff’s book, The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant. “It’s like Babar! Babar fled from the hunter to a city where he found someone who was kind to him.”
I never cease to be amazed at the way children can connect, the way stories help them make sense of their world. Kissing the top of my daughter’s head, I affirmed her, “Great connection, sweetheart.” But inside, I felt so saddened by the context of her connection.