Saturday, January 5, 2013

I Wasn't Up To This Challenge

This past week of Paternity Leave was, by far, the most difficult of my journey as a temporary Stay at Home Dad.

The main reason it was so difficult was that with Lukas still out of school until Monday I was on my own for much of it with two kids, not just the baby. They have different interests right now, these two. But Lukas needs to be active.

So yesterday I decided to take them to Seattle's Museum of Flight, where we have a membership.  I won't even get into the hi-jinx that came along with the trip.  Just suffice it to say, it wasn't exactly calming to the nerves.  

Nevertheless we were excited to see the recently completed Shuttle Trainer exhibit, after meeting the astronaut's who flew in the first section this past summer.

Lukas, who is still very enamored about all things astronaut and space - and who holds out some fleeting hope that he will travel to Mars some day - was pretty excited to walk into the cargo bay of the shuttle trainer and take an up close look at the attached robot arm, getting a first hand idea of the size and scale of the Shuttles.

After exiting the trainer,  Lukas parked himself in the front row of seats and in front of a large video screen which was showing film footage of a shuttle mission.  I didn't pay immediate attention, but went around the corner to retrieve the stroller while carrying Annabelle in the car seat.  

When I returned there were several other people in rows behind him and I realized that what was being shown was a lead up to the 1986 Shuttle Challenger tragedy.  They were profiling teacher Christa McAuliffe and leading up to the day of the explosion which killed all 7 astronauts.  I vividly remember where I was when I heard this terrible news.  Freshman ECON in college.

The video hadn't reached that point yet, but was just showing McAuliffe and her training and the support she had received.   Lukas, of course, was rapt by the video.

I hesitated, not knowing quite what to do.  Upon returning to school tomorrow he will learn that one of his two primary teachers has left.  This was unexpected and he doesn't yet know.  Plus, even though he loves rockets and space and the now retired Shuttles, we haven't yet discussed either of the tragedies with him.

And I didn't necessarily want him to learn about them this way.  By complete surprise at the Shuttle Exhibit.  I just wasn't sure he would handle it well.  He is an extremely empathetic boy.

After a minute I decided that, with a now fussing baby to deal with, this was not the time for me to navigate those dicey waters.  So I punted.  I told him that we had to move on.  And, when he protested I told him I would let him play a game on my iPhone (which I then did not do because we were thankfully distracted by the next exhibit). Of this I am not proud.

Perhaps I should have let him learn the story, then had a long discussion with him about the realities and real life dangers of space travel.  Given that choice 10 times, I might have opted to do so at least once.  But today I didn't, and I'm okay with that.  After all, he's only 5.  

He doesn't need a dose of reality messing with his dreams.  Not yet anyway.


Juli said...

Every moment is a teaching moment, but they don't all have to be.

You did well, young jedi. :)

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Juli - Good point. I'm not sure I would have been at my best right then helping him to understand that tragedy.

daniel said...

Sometimes the best move is the punt. Sounds like you made the "right" decision.

neal call said...

I'm not saying whether your decision was right or wrong, but just thought I'd add that my wife marks her (very real) childhood depression from the day that she watched the challenger explosion live. It made her question her faith in good things winning out, in happiness being more frequent than pain, in being able to protect yourself from the dangers of life.

It's something my wife and I were talking about on our road trip a few days ago, and something I just learned about her.

Of course, if it hadn't been the Challenger that set her off, it might have been her pet dying, or hearing someone talk about the Holocaust. So maybe it's impossible to avoid all of those things, even if you can delay them briefly until you can prep yourself a little as the parent and arbiter of childhood truth.

Mrs. LIAYF said...

@neal - I am so very glad that your wife was able to share this with you. Childhood depression is hard and often hidden by those who have had it. My guess would be that she was an empathetic and sensitive child like Lukas.

Oddly enough, I had a conversation with him today that skirted the Holocaust. We passed by a display of tvs showing the scene from the Sound of Music where the family is escaping from Germany and he asked what was happening. He always insists on knowing things, but I realized I could only tell him so much. I explained there was a bad leader who used his army to put whole families in prison (kids and babies too) because of what they looked like and what they believed. However, I focused on the fact that there were so many brave and kind people who refused to be members of the army, others who hid their friends and neighbors and that other countries came to save the people and take the leader away.

Lukas spent a lot of time asking why someone would do something so terrible. I could only say that no one really knew why, but it was important not to dislike people just because they were different from you and that it was important to help if someone was doing something wrong. I wasn't about to tell him about what happened to most of those people - he's just not ready.

Slamdunk said...

Well done James. I have learned to pick my battles. When I had the three and they were younger, I did lots of picking.

There will be another time.