June 09, 2012

Difficult Explanations

Melissa made a change to our usually light-hearted family Movie Nights and suggested that we watch "Anne Frank: The Whole Story" with Matthew.  The boy is always asking questions during movies ("What's going to happen now?" "Who's that guy?" "What did he mean by that?"), but usually I can quickly answer and get back to watching.  But not this time.

I essentially had to explain the whole of World War II to him over the course of two nights as we watched:
Why the family had to wear a star on their clothing
What a Nazi was.
Who Hitler was.
Why Ann's family had to hide in the attic.
What happened on D-Day and why the family was so happy to hear about it.
Why it took so long for allied troops to reach Amsterdam.
Why the mean people reported the family to the Gestapo.
What a Concentration Camp was.
The difference between that and a Work Camp and a Death Camp.
What a Gas Chamber was.
What the black smoke coming out of the stacks was.
Why the Nazis were killing all these people.
Why they cut all the women's hair.
Why other prisoners stole a dead woman's socks.
Why it took the Allies so long to find the camps Anna's family were in.
What happened to Anna and the rest of her family.

But things changed at the end. As the final images of the film stayed on the screen, with the captions telling of the millions of others who died in the holocaust, and the aftermath of the war, Matthew just looked at me after reading each one, silently begging me to tell him that it wasn't true. I just looked sadly back at him and nodded each time.

I only gave the cliff notes version of WWII, but I think he understood the basic parts of it.  And I was more upset at his silence at the end of the film than I ever was when he was asking silly questions during one of these movie nights. 

Some piece of his childhood died tonight. I can't imagine anything being harder than shattering your child's illusions of the world and telling him what a crappy place it can be.  Finding out that some group killed millions of people in such horrible ways just because they didn't like their religion, scared him more than any imaginary monster in the closet. He had to sleep with three night-lights on tonight. 

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