Yesterday, there was no way to avoid talking about Osama Bin Laden’s death with my eight year old. It was all over the TV, the radio, and I knew kids at school would be talking about it. While getting ready for school, Ryder saw a baseball game highlight on TV featuring the crowd shouting “USA! USA!” He wanted to know why they were doing that. Dang, I thought. I had not prepared for this conversation. But I jumped in, fumbling my way through and tiptoeing past the scariest details.
Me: “Uhhh….welll….you might hear about this at school. There was a guy named Osama Bin Laden who was one of the meanest people in the world and now he’s dead. And a lot of people are really glad he’s gone.”
Him, jaw dropped: “Wait! Is he the one who shot Abraham Lincoln!?”
Me, after giggling: “No, that was another guy a long time ago. Remember how we told you those towers in New York came crashing down after the planes hit them? That was Osama Bin Laden’s idea.”
Him, perplexed: “He drove the planes into the building!?”
Me: “Well, he had other people do it for him.”
Him, shocked: “You mean he let his helpers die in the planes? He didn’t even care about his helpers?”
Me: “Right. That’s how mean he was.”
Him: “Who killed him?”
Me: “Well, some people who work for the United States found him. And even though hurting or killing people isn’t usually a good way to solve problems, they felt like this was the only way to keep him from doing more bad things.”
My deep thinker let that soak in as I wiped my brow. About 20 minutes later, he was very quiet while we drove to school. As I pulled up to the curb, he cleared his throat and said, “Mom, what about that mean guy’s parents? Were they mean to him?”
Me: “I don’t know, buddy, why?”
Him: “Well, I just want to know what happened to his heart…what happened to make him feel so terrible inside that he’d do so many mean things.”
I blinked back tears as he hopped out of the car, blew me a kiss and skipped through the school doors. He’d already moved on to thinking about gym and recess while I sat shell-shocked by his brilliant question – and the unique blend of innocence and wisdom it came from. I so wish I had the answer, little man.