My daughter sees herself as a survivalist, not a creepy, guns-in-the-woods kind of survivalist; but rather the preparedness and planning kind. The other night we were watching “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded” and they were discussing the apocalyptic scenarios attached to 2012. My daughter has always had a fascination with end of the world predictions. She has studied the Mayan long count calendar, Leonardo da Vinci’s flood prophecies, and Nostradomas’ quatrains. We have watched many programs on end of the world scenarios and she has never been freaked out, just quietly determined to prepare. We may be one of the few households in our neighborhood that have Survival Straws (for water purification) and ThyroSafe Potassium Iodide Tablets (to be used in the event of nuclear fallout). I have helped her put together a great earthquake kit, complete with medical supplies. We have back up water storage, extra warm clothing, sleeping bags, and kits for the cars. All this preparation has helped her feel secure. That is, until we watched “Decoded.” This program sent her into a panic. Perhaps it got to her because she respects the three investigators on this program. They are skeptics who don’t substantiate theories without plenty of evidence. This particular "Decoded" focused on what has been happening with the world’s weather in the past couple of years: droughts, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, melting ice caps, and so on. The investigators interviewed scientists who said that basically, we have already done irreparable damage and what we are seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Coupled with this dire news was the investigators’ report on NASA’s solar storm warning for 2012 and the possibility of life without electricity for many months. Oh, and for good measure they threw in the highlights of the past years’ global financial meltdown, political upheaval, and ongoing wars. They capped it all off with survival experts discussing how people “go animal” after four days without food and water. All in all, a pretty grim picture.
At the end of the program my daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t want to be 11 when I die.” I want to hug her tight and tell her not to worry about a thing; that I will protect her and keep her safe, but I can’t. You can’t use platitudes and parental omnipotence with our kids. They know better. I try to explain that throughout history, even in the most horrific scenarios, sometimes human kindness shines through. I tell her that maybe her generation will figure out a way to stabilize our world. I even tell her that there are things worse than death. I am scrambling to comfort her but failing miserably, because I feel the same way she does. I want to run away screaming. We have messed things up pretty badly and her generation will bear the brunt of ancestral sins. It is times like this that I wish my kids weren’t so smart. I would like her to experience the bliss of ignorance. Childhood shouldn’t be filled with worries about the end of the world.
I could have kept her from watching "Decoded" and we might have avoided this pain, but short of living in a bubble, I don't think there is any way to keep our kids from finding things out. They are dangerously curious. Even something as seemingly innocent as a trip to the Academy of Sciences or reading Stephen and Lucy Hawkings children's book, George's Secret Key to the Universe, is loaded with potentially frightening information. Their advanced intellectual state drives them to discover things their not-so-advanced emotional state can't handle. It is a perpetual worry. How to help them balance their insatiable desire to learn with the responsibility of knowing? I would be so relieved if the toughest questions I had to field were, "Where do babies come from?" or "How does Santa fly around the whole world in one night?" We have lived in the land of lost innocence for a very long time. They know I don't have all the answers; but I sure wish I did.