This post was originally published November 6, 2010. With this week being National Veteran's Week and Remembrance Day Friday, we wanted to do our part this week to honour those who have served Canada. Thursday we'll be sharing a list of local Remembrance Day parades and memorials throughout Ottawa. *****
We took the 4 year old firefighter and the 2 year old monkey to their first Remembrance Day parade in 2008. At the time, the firefighter was only 2 and a 1/2 and the monkey four months old. We were going to try to explain Remembrance day to the firefighter but realized there were no words simple enough for him to understand its magnitude and significance. Instead, my husband and I explained that we were going outside for the morning to do something together and left it at that.
We chose a spot at the entrance to the memorial so that our eldest was occupied watching all the diplomats cars arrive, many with motorcycle escorts. Its important to both of us that our kids grow up with an understanding and respect of what November 11th signifies; however, at the age of 2 and a 1/2, we wanted the event to be enjoyable.
We dressed in snow suits and brought blankets and snacks. We chose to arrive early so we could be close to the gate but we also left early to avoid the crowds. The War Memorial is busy on Remembrance Day and it can be difficult to see, especially for small kids. The only warning I have, aside from the cold weather, is the fighter jets that fly overhead. Both boys were overwhelmed by the noise.
I think the most challenging thing for parents when participating in Remembrance Day activities is explaining the significance and history of the event in age-appropriate terms. When the firefighter was three we asked what he knew about Remembrance Day and war. He knew that war meant people fought. We let him lead the discussion and ask the questions he wanted answered: its surprising sometimes what kids are interested in knowing and what they overlook. Last year he understood that people have fought to protect Canada and that some of them died. Because they did / do such important jobs, we wear poppies to remember them.
Before you talk about Remembrance Day with your kids I think its helpful to think about your values and what you want your children to understand about war. How do you talk about death in your family? What are your values about guns and violence? I ask these questions because I've been got off-guard by what my firefighter has asked.
How have you explained Remembrance Day to your children?
Sara is mom to 4-year-old ” firefighter” and 2-year-old “monkey”. You can find her at her blog, My Points of View.