Monday, January 24, 2011

A Difficult Subject for a Young Child

Today many many people will March for Life in D.C., not far from us. I wish we could have gone, but, if 25 degrees with a wind chill of 18 degrees wasn't enough of a reason to keep a 4 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 1/2 year old inside, the fact I had trouble waddling across the mall last weekend is.

But, though unable to join them, we have had EWTN on and will until around 3:15pm.

Cecilia has wanted to know why. I don't usually have the TV on for such a long period of time and Cecilia wanted to know why today was so different.

A 4 year old asking, indirectly, about abortion. Abortion is a subject I have trouble dealing with myself just because of how horrific it is so it is certainly not something I consider 4-year-old-appropriate.

I told her today was a special day because there are a lot of good people who would be speaking up for other people who couldn't speak for themselves. I told her there are people out there who like to hurt babies and a lot of people think that that is okay but today people are speaking out to try to change that and protect babies from being hurt.

And I left it at that. I told her there would be a Mass, a lot of talking, and then a lot of people marching.

Of course, tell a 4 year old that there will be a lot of people marching, and you simply must be talking about a parade. She spent a few hours asking me when the "parade" was going to start.

While I do think those who are in favor of abortion should have to take a look at those graphic pictures of just what they favor, I have a hard time looking at them and really cannot see knowingly exposing my children to them at such a young age. I understand children need to learn a bit of the harsh reality of the fact that yummy bacon, indeed, comes from pigs just like Wilbur, but abortion is a harsh reality that shouldn't even be a reality.

Have you had the subject of abortion come up with your young children? How have you handled it? About how old do you think was/is appropriate for discussing such a subject?


  1. My husband told me that some of his first memories as a child was when his family used to go to pray at an abortion center. When he asked why they were their one of the other kids told him that it was because people were killing babies in their mommies belly's in the building because their mommies didn't love them. He told her that she must have been lying because a mommy could not love their baby and no one would kill a baby. At the time his mom was pregnant with his little brother. I think he was between three and four at the time. He says that one of the reasons he's so pro-life is because of that experience.
    I think you should tell children the truth in language that they understand. It is a reality of our culture. Now would probably be a good time because you are pregnant and she understands that you have a baby in there even if she can't see it's a baby yet. It doesn't change the fact she knows it's a baby. I find children understand more simplistically what we adults struggle to. Their lives are pretty black and white.

  2. I think you know yourself and your children and every parent has to decide when to cross that bridge. I think it will probably be different for every child. While I respect that your husband learned early and it has made him strongly pro-life, and while I wouldn't be too upset if someone else's child gave Bella a similar explanation, I can't bring myself to explain it to her in even the mildest terms of "people hurting babies." Maybe it's cowardice on my part; but I'm not ready to go there yet. I can hardly bring myself to explain to her about people driving nails into Jesus' hands or piercing his side with a lance. I don't her read books about people deliberately hurting other people. I just want her to be innocent of that knowledge a while younger. I'm not yet ready. She's not even five and she lives in a world that is simple and innocent and unstained by that knowledge and I can't bring myself to open that door yet. I'm pretty sure that by the time she reaches the "age of reason", then we will definitely be telling her the truth about what abortion is in language she can understand. But not today and maybe not this year. I'm open to reconsidering again tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. I'm not sure when I'll be ready and she'll be ready. If she asks me a direct question like, "Mama, what's abortion?" then maybe that's the kind of answer I'll give her.

    Yesterday I took Bella to a holy hour for life. When she asked why we went I told her to pray, to spend time with Jesus, to adore him in the blessed sacrament. All true. All things she can understand. What she took in of the deacon's speech about abortion I' don't know. But she didn't ask me a direct question about the subject of our prayers and so I'm willing to let it slide till another day.

    I don't think parents who choose another course are wrong; but that's where I am right now with this particular child.

  3. Baroness Von Korf, I think it is wonderful your husband had such a great example of living the pro-life principle. Maybe he was more ready for it.

    A couple of years ago, at bedtime, we prayed for friends of ours who had miscarried. So I didn't think much of it a couple of weeks ago when, again at bedtime, we prayed for a local mom who gave birth very prematurely and whose baby died. It didn't dawn on me that Cecilia would understand it differently than she did before but she became visibly upset and had trouble getting to sleep. I reminded her that we had prayed for our friend's baby when they had miscarried. She remained upset about it for days and would insist we pray for the babies every day. I had to keep reassuring her that her unborn brother or sister was still fine and I could feel him or her moving. Yes, the death of a baby, even naturally like in this case, was a harsh reality and it was only in hindsight that I realized it was too much for her. So I know for a fact that telling her what abortion is would not go over well right now.

    So, on the one hand, I answered her in a way she could understand but in such a way that it didn't upset her. I try to walk a fine line based on what I think is appropriate for her age but, as Melanie said, I think it is the sort of thing that would vary for each child. When I can tell Cecilia, I expect her to handle it better and earlier than Felicity, who tends to be much more sensitive. I'm just guessing, but I bet your husband was more prepared to handle such a definition, especially considering his mom's involvement in the pro-life movement.

  4. Each child is different. I know that. I wasn't saying now was the right time but you asked for examples so I gave one. I don't think I would have been ready to know at that age. I was a very sheltered child but death was something I faced daily with a grave yard in my back yard.
    Some children are more ready than others for such things. I probably didn't know what abortion was till I was much older.
    I knew what a miscarriage was because I was there when one of my sisters friends miscarried in our bathroom. Some children would have been terrified but instead I was intrigued with childbirth. When my sister gave birth when I was five it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
    Each child is ready to learn of different things at different times in their lives. It is important for parents to know when those times come for their child.

  5. Baroness, I don't think I would have been ready to know that young either. I imagine most children wouldn't. Sounds like your husband may have been one of the more mature ones. I also sounds like miscarriage was one of those unfortunate things that just happened in such a way that you learned about it whether you were ready or not, but it sounds like you were old enough.

    "Each child is ready to learn of different things at different times in their lives. It is important for parents to know when those times come for their child." <- You put it very well.

  6. Katherine, I don't know if you saw Sally Thomas' blog post on the subject of when she told her older two children what "abortion rights" means; but it seems relevant to the discussion:

  7. Melanie,

    Thanks for the link. It was an interesting read. I still think my children are too young, but, I have to wonder if there is an advantage to telling them what abortion is when they are more, say, of the age of reason rather than waiting until they are, say, teenagers. I think as a teenager, it might be easier for it to seem like a more distant problem whereas a younger child would have a much closer view. Perhaps I'm wrong but I know I didn't find out about abortion until I was in high school and while I was always anti-abortion, I can't say as I had much passion about it back then. In your link, I can see why the reality of what abortion is would make such a strong impact on a younger child learning of its meaning whereas it might be easier for a teenager who learns of it to not see it as a horror so close to themselves.