War and Children - Asking the Questions
Originally published in the West Seattle Herald/April Kidz' Korner column
Lauri Hennessey

Today I sat down to write a column about children.

And as I thought about children, I couldn't get an image out of my head. It is the photo of a child whose picture I saw in the paper today - coming out of a hospital in Baghdad. The child was holding onto his mother, and his head was bleeding.

Make no mistake. This war is indeed about children. The children in Iraq - and the children in America who are now growing up in a time of war.

That's why I went to my daughter Emma, who is 7, and asked her about the war in Iraq. I wanted to know what she feels about it today, and what the kids in her world are worried about.

Now I should say something about Emma. Emma was born with the intellect and spirit of a much older person. She has always had a great sense of truth, and of the world around her. I think this makes it hard to be seven - and it is no exception in how she views the war. I had no idea she was even aware of what was happening. I hadn't even taken the time to ask.

"I think that some kids think the war is cool because we are now an important part of history," she said. "Other kids don't even know it is happening, because their parents haven't told them. And then some kids sit and cry at recess," she said.

"Sometimes we talk about the war together at recess. We talk about what if David's Dad gets hurt, or if something goes wrong, and bombs fly at America," she said.

Emma is worried about the war. She is worried they might bring the war to America, or that she could become an "orphan". She is worried that the "bad man" might come here to her home. She is worried that everyone will think things are fine, and the war is over, but it will be a trick, and the bad man will send a bomb.

I asked Emma why we are at war with Iraq. "The mean guy hurts people if they say anything mean about him, like he doesn't color good or something. If he doesn't like what they say, he kills them," she said. "He doesn't have that big of an army, though, so we can win. We won't hurt the people, just the army and the mean guy," she said.

I asked Emma why it's America's job to go to Iraq. "No one else is going to that country," she said. "It is our job because people are getting killed. We go if no one else does. We have let this go on too long," she said.

What is Emma's worst fear? "This could become World War III," she said. "That makes me scared. It also makes me sad, because in world wars, many people die. It could be like the Civil War, when the most people died of any war," she said.

How does Emma feel when she sees people holding the signs, protesting the war? "It makes me feel proud," she said. "One of my old teachers is there. She is out there all the time, holding her sign. When we are with you, you always honk and wave. I think girls do that more, because they are more sensitive. I don't think girls like having a war as much," she said.

When I brought this little girl into the world seven years ago, I dreamed of many things. I dreamed of taking her to mother-daughter teas - like the one we went to last weekend. I dreamed of watching her sing in her choir, which I will do next month. I dreamed the dreams you have when you bring a life into this world - and many of them have come true.

I didn't dream she would be worry about bombs, or about "bad men" coming to our town, or about her friend's father dying

No matter how you feel about this war, know this. Among its victims are children. Whether they are bombed in Baghdad or afraid in America, they are indeed victims.

So when we pray for peace, let's also pray for the kids who now will remember a childhood at war.



The Children's Resource Line is staffed 24/7 by consulting nurses who will answer parents' questions about talking to children or dealing with children's anxiety. It can be reached at 206-987-2500. A book to get is "Helping Children Cope with the Stresses of War: A Manual for Parents and Teachers" by Mona Macksoud, (UNICEF) (available at www.unicef.org). And at "About Our Kids.org" (www.aboutourkids.org):you can get tips for talking to kids about war with Iraq. Finally, the United Nations Children's Fund (www.unicef.org) gives information on how war affects children, with opportunities for children to help with donations. Kidz' Korner runs in the West Seattle Herald/White Center News the third Wednesday every month. You can contact Lauri Hennessey at otisandus@earthlink.net


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