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 café0ˆ9s copy of the New York Times. The mother took it, and began recounting to her son abridged versions of each article.

[Note: I don0ˆ9t make a habit of eavesdropping on public conversations, except in the case of children trying to understand the complexities of the modern world.]

0ˆ6Why is that boy running, mommy?0ˆ7 pointing at an Afghan boy on the front page.
0ˆ6He0ˆ9s excited to be going back to school.0ˆ7
0ˆ6Why?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Because his school has been closed for a long time.0ˆ7
0ˆ6Why?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Because there was a war.0ˆ7
0ˆ6If my school was closed for a long time, I0ˆ9d be happy. I wouldn0ˆ9t be excited to go back.0ˆ7
0‡7
Another article, about a small-town bank robbery in Kansas:
0ˆ6Why is that man putting a sign on the door?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Robbers took all the money from the bank, and now the man is closing the bank in the afternoons.0ˆ7
0ˆ6So the robbers can come in the afternoon?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Hopefully not.0ˆ7
0ˆ6Why didn0ˆ9t the robbers just ask for money?0ˆ7
0‡7
0ˆ6Look honey, here0ˆ9s an article about our president, Mr. Bush.0ˆ7
0ˆ6We don0ˆ9t like Bush, right mom? Who was the other guy we were rooting for?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Al Gore.0ˆ7
0ˆ6They had a race, right mom, and Bush cheated?0ˆ7
That0ˆ9s really what he said 0ˆ4 I0ˆ9m 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.
0‡7
And finally, a picture of starving children in Uganda:
0ˆ6Why does that boy look sad?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Because he doesn0ˆ9t have a mommy or daddy.0ˆ7
0ˆ6Why not?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Because his village was destroyed.0ˆ7
0ˆ6Why?0ˆ7
0ˆ6I don0ˆ9t know.0ˆ7 She was avoiding the question. 0ˆ6But we have a lot to be thankful for, right?0ˆ7
0ˆ6Yeah, like a house0‡7and toys. I guess we don0ˆ9t really need toys. Well, maybe just one toy, but not a lot...I0ˆ9m glad I have toys.0ˆ7

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.

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