Eavesdropping at Lunch
I was eating lunch at a Hyde Park café when a mother and her son, about 5-years-old, sat beside me at the counter. Being an undergraduate, my immediate community consists almost entirely of 18 to 22-year-olds; so I welcome the rare occasion to observe young children.
I thought little of them while the mother sorted through her bags, the child quietly eating his cinnamon roll. The remarkable event occurred after a few minutes, when another patron finished reading the café09s copy of the New York Times. The mother took it, and began recounting to her son abridged versions of each article.
[Note: I don09t make a habit of eavesdropping on public conversations, except in the case of children trying to understand the complexities of the modern world.]
06Why is that boy running, mommy?07 pointing at an Afghan boy on the front page.
06He09s excited to be going back to school.07
06Because his school has been closed for a long time.07
06Because there was a war.07
06If my school was closed for a long time, I09d be happy. I wouldn09t be excited to go back.07
Another article, about a small-town bank robbery in Kansas:
06Why is that man putting a sign on the door?07
06Robbers took all the money from the bank, and now the man is closing the bank in the afternoons.07
06So the robbers can come in the afternoon?07
06Why didn09t the robbers just ask for money?07
06Look honey, here09s an article about our president, Mr. Bush.07
06We don09t like Bush, right mom? Who was the other guy we were rooting for?07
06They had a race, right mom, and Bush cheated?07
That09s really what he said 04 I09m not making that up. I thought how difficult it would be to explain the 2000 presidential elections simply enough for a 5-year-old to understand without being biased.
And finally, a picture of starving children in Uganda:
06Why does that boy look sad?07
06Because he doesn09t have a mommy or daddy.07
06Because his village was destroyed.07
06I don09t know.07 She was avoiding the question. 06But we have a lot to be thankful for, right?07
06Yeah, like a house07and toys. I guess we don09t really need toys. Well, maybe just one toy, but not a lot...I09m glad I have toys.07
It struck me as a brave thing for a parent to read the newspaper with her child, being honest with her son while at the same time glossing over the harsher realities, voluntarily confronting her opposing responsibilities as a parent for the sake of him becoming a better adult.