Monday, November 9, 2009

First Snow--Army Woes

It snowed lightly throughout the day Thursday and continued into the night so that Friday morning we were greeted with a good four inches of wet and heavy, which was surprising to say the least (while in Colorado, where I grew up, you can get a foot or more anytime between Labor Day and Mother's Day--which usually melts in 70 degree weather in a day or two--here our snow usually doesn't fall until Thanksgiving or Christmas, but sticks around--or is turned to ice --until Earth day).

E and Z were soooo excited to see the snow when they woke up, that I couldn't possibly feel negative toward the snow, even if I were inclined to. Z kept saying "It's so exciting!" and E couldn't wait to get outside and start shoveling. M, on the other hand, started crying as soon as I woke him up with the news. He had plans, you see, and snow didn't fit in with those plans. He had a sleepover scheduled at his buddy's house after school, with lots of cammo-clad army action on tap (and not snow-cammo). I'd had great hopes that he'd moved on from the army obsession after he dressed all week in a striped t-shirt and jeans, being Joe Hardy, as portrayed by Tommy Kirk on the original Micky Mouse Club Hardy Boys, which we'd checked out from the library. Apparently obsessions do not fade so easily.

In an effort to cheer him up (and get him out of bed and ready for school), I pulled a book off the shelf called The Last Ridge, about the 10th Mountain Division--the ski troops of WWII--(which I own because I went to a writing workshop a few years ago at which the writer was one of the instructors, which is a funny story in itself that I need to blog about sometime). It did the trick and restored M's good humor. I thought he'd look at the pictures, become convinced of the snowiness of army battles, then return it to the shelf, however it's become his home reading for school, despite being an inch and a half thick (and despite the fact that I only made it halfway through it myself). I'm not sure if I really want him to get into the nitty gritty of this particular element of the war--if I recall correctly, the 10th Mountain Division, made up of Olympic-caliber skiers and other bright, talented young men, were basically sent to the slaughter on the slopes of the Italian Alps, at a time when the war was effectively over, but no one had sent these boys the memo. Likely he won't get that far into the book, but in the meantime, I can claim responsibility for shattering some of the eight-year-old innocence that he should possess.

Saturday afternoon after returning home from the sleepover, M asked if I had any olive-colored fabric, with which to sew a German Army jacket. He said it needed an iron cross as well, at which point I made it clear that he was under no circumstances going to be allowed to dress as a Nazi, and then, to drive the point home, I gave him the two-minute synopsis of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime--6 million people murdered, concentration camps, gas chambers, mass graves and all. By the time I was done he had burrowed under the couch cushions, crying. I never intended to alert my third-grader to the horrors of genocide and this dark side of human nature, but I wouldn't want an interest in World War II and the Nazi Regime to lead to identification with that regime, before he really understands what it stood for. Do I really think a youthful fascination with all things war will Neo-Nazi? I doubt it; at least I hope we are raising him with values exactly opposite of Neo Nazis, yet I don't want him to have the impression that there is anything cool or appealing about this part of history. I wonder if I have been wrong to let him explore and express his interest in war...and I wonder if I have made a mistake in trying to impress on him the idea that there are no "good guys" and "bad guys"...while everything about war is terrible to me, certainly there is no doubt that the Nazis were bad guys (however, the point I was trying to make to him, was that the leaders are the bad ones; innocent civilians and 18 year old kids conscripted in the army are not--I believe this is even true of Germany in the 1930s). I feel at a loss as to the best way to deal with the topic. I'm sorry I made him cry (though I'm sure the tears were at least 75% due to staying up too late at a slumber party), and I'm sure I could have introduced the subject in a more careful, gentle manner. What I wish is that he would be completely in the dark about the whole topic until reading Anne Frank in Seventh Grade, but it's too late for that, now, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. You gotta do what you gotta do. It's easy for me to express an opinion, having only daughters, and those genes being located on the Y chromosome and all - but I allow no war toys or play in this Quaker house. We are adamant about the war thing. I know boys are different, though - I remember how my brother could turn anything into a gun - shiver.


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