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Teaching Your Child to Swim in a Storm 

click to enlarge ELISA JÄRNEFELT
  • Elisa Järnefelt

"How do you teach your child to swim in a thunderstorm?"

This is a question I've been pondering a lot lately. Our current events — the mix of the pandemic, white extremism, racial division and the climate crisis — make this time feel like a dark ocean that is constantly being pounded by thunder and lightning. Avoiding these waters is impossible and, in many ways, I feel that wading in the water and admitting the presence of these issues is important. However, my feelings as a parent are more confusing and contradictory.

At the age of 3.5, my daughter has started to increasingly gather information about the world and make her own inferences. I have promised myself that I will be honest with her, but sometimes her questions are heartbreaking. They give me the urge to lie to her, to tell her the water is completely safe and storms can never reach us. But I know that this would not help her. Eventually someone would tell her about the thunder and the rain, and they might do so unkindly.

So, when my daughter asks about the storms, I tell her about them. I tell her there really are thunderstorms over these waters sometimes, and yet we still must learn to swim. But I also tell her about the lifeguards. No matter how stormy the waters are, there are those who never stop trying to help. You can still feel safe in the storm. That is not a lie.

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