Remembrance Day: Explaining it to a Five-year-old

Poppy in Israel. Photographed by Pixie (username in en, de, he Wikipedias)

Via Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, I always attended the Remembrance Day parade and ceremonies with my Mom. At school, we always had an assembly with some of the veterans in attendance. I don’t, however, remember having the conversation with my parents about why we celebrate (perhaps observe is the right word) this day.

So, when my little kindergartner came home asking if Kelowna was going to be taken over. because a long time ago people in the army used swords and guns to protect us in a war, I was a little taken aback with how to answer.

“No, where we live is safe,” I began my debriefing. “Yes, a long time ago there were wars, and your great grandfathers were in them. People were very brave and fought for us, and now we take a day to remember them.”

But, when explaining this, I know that I was conjuring thoughts of cartoon heroes and bad guys, not everyday people who made extraordinary sacrifices. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my kids don’t have a direct connection with a war (such a lucky generation of kids) or anyone who was in one. When I was a kid, I recall seeing large groups of veterans standing at the cenotaph, welling up with emotion. And when kids see adults (especially much older ones) tearing up, it’s pretty intense ande clearly a sign that you should take it seriously.

And, once I had done my best to talk to my kids about Remembrance Day, my son asked, “So, when I grow up, I can fight for us in a war?”

My heart sank.

“No.” was my all-too-fast response. “You can’t go in a war — or ride motorcycles.” Even when you’re grown up. (That was my momma bear instinct kicking in.)

While I was explaining all of this to my kids, I realized something. I realized the immense sacrifice of the parents of those that we remember. I would jump in front of a bullet for my children, but to send your children off to war is incomprehensible. This year I will make an extra point to remember the mothers that said goodbye to their children. What a gut-wrenching thought.

Anyways, I don’t know that I’ve done justice to dispelling their grand ideas of heroes battling bad guys, but then again I’m grateful that they can’t really comprehend it. Because they don’t have to. There can be no value put on that gift.

One more thing to remember when I put on my poppy this year.


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