“Can a Debt Ceiling Fall on You?” and Other Important Questions
The summer my daughter was not quite one, I walked into the
living room to find her staring at the TV set in horror, screaming and
“No! No! No!” she screamed repeatedly, while watching live
TV news coverage of wildfires that were threatening houses and people not too
far from where we lived in Southern California at the time.
Her eyes were wild – hysterical.
She was so young she only knew a few words, but the look of fear in her eyes was clear to me. She knew that fire was real – and she feared that it was coming after her or, maybe, someone she loved.
After that, this long-time news junkie made the agonizing
decision to nix all TV news viewing during the day. Instead, I relied entirely
on radio news and the Internet during the day, and tried to catch up on any TV
news at night. (Because of the realities of life, this nightly news viewing
Pretty soon, listening to the news in the car became
difficult, too, as my children fretted about the possibility of wildfires
devouring their homes, hurricanes drowning their Mississippi grandparents and
one or both of their parents losing their jobs and not finding new ones to pay
the bills. (Really, my children worried about this. I found it surprising, too.
I guess we Hendersons are natural worriers.)
But this summer, I decided that it was time to periodically
turn the news back on again. I want my children to understand, after all, some
of the basic events of the nation and the world and why they matter. And one of
the most logical ways to do that is to turn on the news at home and in the car.
Exposing the kids to the news this summer has lead to some
interesting questions and conversations. Here are a few:
- From Hannah: “There are a lot of rich people in
America. If there are so many rich people here, how are there so many poor
people? Why don’t the rich share more with the poor?”
- Also from Hannah: “Could the President give all
the homeless people homes? If I was President I think that is the first thing I
would do. I think people would vote for that.”
- Hunter, eyeing John Boehner on TV: “He’s still
here? I thought that guy was extinct?” (I think this confusion came from
coverage of a Boehner-backed bill that died.)
- Hannah: “Why are there so many men on the news?
And why are they all wearing those coats and ties? Do they like dressing up
- Hunter and Hannah, on more than one occasion:
“What is a debt ceiling, anyway?” (Oh. My. Aching. Head.)
- Hunter, scratching his head at reports about the stock market falling: “Can a debt ceiling
fall on you? I bet THAT would hurt!”
- Hannah, looking worried and incredulous at the
same time: “American doesn’t have any MONEY? I thought we were the richest
country in the world.”
- Hannah: “How many wars are we fighting, anyway?
Why are we so mad at everyone?”
- Hannah, while listening quite carefully to
coverage of Congress: “Mrs. Peterson (her brilliant first grade teacher) taught
us about facts and opinions. I know the difference. Why are all these people
giving opinions? Aren’t facts better?”
- Hunter: “Does Obama like being President? Can he quit if
he wants to? I think he is tired of giving all those speeches.”
- Hannah, while talking about families she has
gotten to know while volunteering: “Do you think the President knows any
homeless families? If he did, I bet he would want them to have a house.”
- Hunter, after listening to a sinister sounding report on immigration in Arizona: “What are illegal immigrants?” I offered
a fumbling explanation about citizenship and borders and why people would want
to come to America in the first place. Hunter: “So they are just PEOPLE? Like
US?” Indeed, Hunter. Indeed ….
I think it is safe to say that the television news is going to stay on in our house from now on — the kids might just demand it. I am not sure how much the
kids are truly benefiting, but I know that I am learning an awful lot.