Just got off the phone with my dear brother in New Jersey… asking about how things are going for his household, and of course, my dearest 2 year old nephew known as A-Ren. Throughout the latest events transpiring between Israel and Lebanon, I’ve been thinking about how people explain things to their children, or what lessons children learn by observing the behavior of nations. Although it’s not really something a 2 year old needs explaining, I can imagine at the more inquisitive ages, say 5 or 6, kids will have lots of questions about why things are happening this way or perhaps they will in some way be effected in the long run, in terms of their behavior in relation to conflict.
That said, the following is a brief letter from ME to A-ren… which I imagine him reading maybe when he is 6 years old or so. If you don’t like the letter, please keep in mind, it’s not for you.. it’s for my nephew, and the internets can read it if they want to.
Hi buddy. I write this email to you from the year 2006.. summertime actually. I’m over here in Amsterdam, and I know you’re over there in New Jersey, swimming alot and playing outside. What you probably don’t notice, but lot’s of people are watching – is the news. All over the world people are pretty concerned, as alot of people are in danger and really scared.. while other people are very angry and trying to hurt them.
I know when you read this, you’ll be in elementary school, and learning new things everyday. You’ll have lots of friends to play with, and sometimes maybe some children will not be nice to you. There might even be another little boy or girl who try to make you mad, take things from you, or hurt you in some way.
Other kids might tell you to do something bad to them.. to be mean to them back. You might even get really mad and feel like throwing something at them in the playground.. or pushing them. But I want to give you some really important advice:
When you get really mad like that… take a deep breath. If you feel like yelling… yell. If you feel like running.. run. But if you feel like hurting someone… do not do it. I know how it feels to be angry with other people… I had that too in school. I would get very angry and stamp my feet and yell alot. To tell you truth, I even used to bang my head against the wall when I got angry… pretty dumb huh?
The important thing to always remember, no matter how angry you are, is that hurting someone will not make it better. And if you do hurt someone, you are now just as bad they are, and they might want to one day hurt you back to get revenge.
Speaking up for yourself and standing up for yourself is very hard sometimes, and lots of people will tell you it is important to do it. But there are different ways to do it. Some friends might tell you that in order to stand up for yourself, you have to hurt others. The bad thing is, now you’re hurting someone, and maybe you’re behaving just as bad as the other boy or girl.
Anyway, I’m sure your dad told you all about this. But when you watch the news sometimes, you might see something different. Grownups have lots of disagreements, and lots of them think that hurting others in order to stop them from hurting you is the best answer to fix disagreements and stay safe. No matter what you see on TV or hear from other friends, this way of doing things is no good. The sad part is, they’ve been doing it this way for many years, and they still think one day it will work. The really really sad part is, they keep hurting each other, and many people get hurt.. and even die.. because many grownups don’t learn from the mistakes they made before… just like on the playground.
I hope this isn’t too much advice from your old far-away uncle. I just want to make sure you know that you’ve got lots of help whenever you have a problem, and with a family like ours, we can find the right way to solve it- together.