As Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc over the last few days, I was lucky enough to be nestled at home with my husband and five kids. We were among the fortunate ones on the Eastern Seaboard, blessed with power, water, and food in northern Manhattan. My kids range in age from one to eight, so I had some decisions to make about what to show them and what to talk to them about.
On one hand, I didn’t want to terrify them. However, it seemed crucial to let them know how much suffering was happening and how heroes were out there saving lives and taking care of others in dire need. Of all of the stories, here are the ones we discussed as a family:
All of my children were born at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and one of them was in that hospital’s NICU for ten days. The image of a nurse emerging from the hospital after descending nine flights of stairs while giving the infant oxygen through a bag that she pumped by hand overwhelmed me. I made the decision to talk about this with my three oldest boys who are five, seven and eight-years-old. “That nurse is taking care of that baby just like nurses at that hospital took care of all of you,” I explained. “Isn’t she amazing?” They all heartily agreed.
They are residents of this city and I thought it was important for them to witness this epic event.
There was also the image of National Guardsmen in red wet suits escorting now homeless people from their flooded homes in New Jersey on makeshift rafts. “Who are those guys,” my boys asked. “Firemen?” I explained that the men in red were National Guardsmen, and that they were heroes who came to help when there was a big emergency. This made such an impression on them that one of my boys asked if he could be a National Guardsmen for Halloween. I’m running short on red wet suits, but otherwise, I would have obliged.
During the storm there were continuous press conferences led by Mayor Bloomberg and state Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo. They were all out there overseeing the devastation and trying to guide the rescue and recovery efforts. I thought that it was important to talk to my children about what it means to be a politician and how, ultimately, it’s about taking care of people. No matter what your politics, we have to applaud these guys for caring and doing their best. Their compassion and open communication makes me proud to be a New Yorker.
Being a parent means making tough choices. Since I exposed my children to a fair amount of news coverage, I was a little worried that they might have nightmares about fires and floods. After all, it’s the first time my kids have seen that on TV. But for some reason, getting all this in front of them seemed like the right thing to do. I answered all of their questions and they seemed to understand what was happening around them. They are residents of this city and I thought it was important for them to witness this epic event.
What did you tell your children about Hurricane Sandy?