Yesterday, the first day back at school after the week-end’s disaster, the third graders at my daughter’s school decided to gather pencils and notebooks and things for the children who had to evacuate their homes in northern Japan. The teachers discussed the earthquake with the kids, and they are making further plans to help out on a wider scale. My daughter brought a box of pencils to school today to donate.
My husband, who is a high school teacher at a school for the disabled, led his students in a moment of silence to honor the thousands of victims of the tsunami.
I asked my son what he did at school in relation to the quake.
“My teacher talked about it a little,” he said, “but we had to practice for graduation.”
According to my son, there was no further initiative to help the students deal with whatever anxiety or concerns they may have regarding the quake. Nor did I hear of any efforts to comfort or help the survivors, or remember the lives that were washed away. I found this incredible, especially since at every event open to parents, the principal talks about how the school is helping the students to develop kind, caring hearts. Can they really be so busy practicing for graduation, that they can’t spare an hour, or even fifteen minutes, or even a moment of silence?
Again today, nothing.
But then I was thinking about how, after school on Friday, I turned on the news and watched the approaching wave over and over – the houses washing away, the people scrambling desperately up the hills, the cars swirling in the water. I could hardly tear my eyes away. I wanted my daughter to bear witness because these are her people. This is her country. And at almost twelve, having toured the Peace Museum in Hiroshima and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., having been deeply moved by these horrible events, I felt she was old enough to deal with tsunami footage.
Maybe I was wrong to make her watch it for so long. To make her wallow in tragedy.
At seven o’clock, she tried to find her favorite cartoon, “Doraemon,” on television, but every station was broadcasting tsunami and earthquake updates. She was disappointed, and I became irritated with her. Was she really so spoiled and lacking in feeling?
She didn’t see any disaster scenes all day Saturday or Sunday. We made crepes together. It was a normal and fun activity. Usually, her weekend diary is about baking or cooking or maybe shopping. When I asked to check her homework, she showed me what she’d written Saturday evening.
She’d written about watching the news with me. She wrote about the earthquake and the big wave and the fires and houses that floated away. She wrote about how scared it made her feel.
Maybe she’d had enough.