Quite frequently when I’m quietly reading a book, Boogie will stop her pinballing around the house long enough to ask me to read out loud what I’m reading. Also, quite frequently, what I’m reading is pretty grim stuff. Yesterday when she asked, I happened to be reading a piece by Caroline Moorehead, A Train in Winter (featured in the latest issue of Granta), about women from the French Resistance who were taken to Birkenau (a Nazi concentration/death camp) during the second world war. When she asked me, I was reading about the bodies of dead Poles being collected after a day’s work. ‘I’m not sure you’ll like what I’m reading,’ I said. ‘Please,’ she said. I hmmm-ed until I reached the next paragraph which described the lack of food in the camp. I started to read aloud.
I got about 6 lines in before Boogie started pinballing again, running around the room, arms outstretched whilst making a high-pitched wailing noise not unlike a nose-diving WWII fighter plane. L’il Boo jumped up and joined her. ‘You can stop reading now,’ she shouted. I am not impervious to hints; I’d got that message already.
As the next paragraph was about the women’s lack of illusions as to the origins of the smoke rising from the camp’s chimney stacks, I was more than happy to comply, and was once again left wondering about lines, where they are, where they’re supposed to be, and who draws them.
How much do you tell a 5 year old about what really goes on in this world? How much is too much? How much is too little? Will too much harm her? And will ‘too much’ only be said because I’m too jaded and cynical to allow her the proper degree of ‘innocence’? Will too little leave her unprepared for the battles she will have to fight? And will ‘too little’ only be said because of my own cowardice, my desire to keep my privileged little girl safe from all that?
Oh, shush, you may say, she’s only five! Some bad people do bad things, tell her, and leave it at that. She’ll find out it’s not that simple in her own good time.
Oh, yeah, that’d be fine except she’s in the most amazing phase of neuroplasticity she’ll ever experience. What goes in now – and what doesn’t – matters.
This shit kills me.