Ponderings from a three year old about 9/11

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At dinner last night (Sept. 10th), I read a story to my orange hair, freckle face almost 16-year-old OS. It was about how Ike processed 9/11 as a toddler. I was surprised back then that the horrors of that day had impacted him so intensely. I’m glad I have been writing for so long because I might have forgotten these moments. First published in the July 2002 issue of P31, a ministry of Proverbs 31 Ministries, I share this again with you on this very significant day.

A sweet little boy with very real questions

In the 12 years I have been a mother, I have learned parenting is not easy. I’ve learned that kids often like to discuss difficult subjects out in public or when I’m driving a car. I’ve learned that little minds think about tough subjects. This has become clearer to me since the events of the last year have given my youngest son, Isaac, much to ponder.

It all began on a seemingly innocent trip to Wal-Mart. As we approached the entrance someone caught Isaac’s attention. A dark-skinned man exited the store and walked near us when Isaac asked, “Is that Osama bin Laden?” So many times my children have surprised me with their spontaneous questions. Hoping that this man hadn’t heard the question, I varied between wanting to burst into laughter and erupt into tears. Isaac’s question jolted me like an electric shock.

Part of me wanted to quip, “Um, Isaac, I don’t think he shops at our local Wal-Mart and uh, Isaac, if he does, forget the crackers, let’s get out of here!” But instead I assured him that the mild man in slacks was not Osama bin Laden.

But he wasn’t finished. About a week later I was putting on makeup and Isaac entered the bathroom. Without any warning or prompting, Isaac wanted to know what we would have done if we had been in “that” building. He wondered whether we would have been hurt. He recalled seeing an image of a woman with a bloody bandage on her head running from the big building. I gently reassured him that we would have been ok.

The grocery store was the most recent location for Isaac’s curious mind to activate. But before we even approached the door, out in the parking lot, Isaac asked me the most intense question I think anyone has ever asked me. “Does Osama bin Laden believe in God?” he inquired.

So how does a mother answer that question?

Just so you know, we don’t have the television on all day and I can’t remember the last time I talked about the war before bedtime. He’s your typical boy who likes horses and dinosaurs. He plays soccer and is building a fort in the backyard with his middle brother. We have “snuggle parties” in the middle of the night when he crawls into our bed. The best response that I could come up with in the milliseconds available was that Osama bin Laden might think he believed in God but he didn’t know Jesus. Isaac is a little young for a Christian apologetics class and I’m unsuited to be training him in the differences between Islam and Christianity. I felt fairly confident that Osama bin Laden had probably heard of Jesus but that he did not know Him personally.

Three sugar boys a long, long time ago

With each one of Isaac’s questions I feel so privileged to be his mother. If I weren’t there, who would hear the stirrings of his heart? If I were too busy or disinterested, what would Isaac do with the adult-sized musings occurring in his pre-K brain? Whose hand would he have been holding when he thought he saw one of the world’s most evil men? If I weren’t available for his questions, who would listen? What kind of answers would he receive?

With each question pouring from his soul, Isaac gives me the rock-solid response. One of the most important jobs I will ever have is raising my kids. The biggest assignment I’ll ever be given is to teach and show my sons the love of Christ and to instruct them in righteousness. In Proverbs 7:1-4 we are reminded to keep God’s words with us at all times.

We are urged to impress God’s commandments upon our children in Deuteronomy 6:7. Before our feet even hit the floor, our Heavenly Father desires to be on our minds and in our hearts. There are no provisions in the Bible as to when we get a break. When my orange-haired boy with soft cherry lips asks me about evil I must be ready to discuss the greatness of God. I need to look for open windows into his soul. God doesn’t mention the car or mall or store as being places where I can slack off as a mom.

I’ve got to show Isaac in my actions and words how to seek the face
of Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer in times of trouble
and tumult. To counter the attacks on my son’s spirit,
I’m required to instill in him the security of believing in
Jesus, the just and awesome One who triumphed over sin and death.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

I wish my son’s innocence had not been interrupted by the events of September 11th. The rubble that has cluttered my precious boy’s mind needs to be replaced with peace and beauty. The provocative questions asked by my son make my resolve to be a good mother even stronger. Crackers and cold cuts, makeup and mealtime, sunrise and sunset, Lord, please keep me ready.

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11 thoughts on “Ponderings from a three year old about 9/11

  1. What an incredible post. All of your responses were so insightful. The MOST wonderful thing, however, was that you have been there… physically present.. through all his years. There is simply no substitute for that sacrifice made by you, his mom.Great job. Keep up the good work!

  2. Your Wednesday remix is a great idea and what you hope to gain from it is even more wonderful. You are definitely on my top ten list of mother's I admire the most. As I have said before, you and other mother's like, you inspire me to be the best mom I can be.

  3. Your post made it into the “made me cry” category. I have been crying off and on all day. For some reason, this year’s 9/11 anniversary is hitting me harder than others. I would like to think it is because my heart is more tender and my sorrow deeper regarding the darkness we have to endure for a time.

    • I was listening to the families reading the names of those who died on 9/11. Tears came from my eyes today too. Such a perfect and beautiful weather day here in NC, it reminds me so much of that fateful day. You have a very tender heart and I know how much you care for others even those you may never meet this side of heaven. Thank goodness we have hope and truth in Jesus. ❤

  4. What a beautiful reflection on the responsibility and privilege we have to shepherd our children through this complicated world. My son, third grade at the time, pulled out and read a book we had called Worst Case Scenario. It had a chapter entitled “How to fly a jet airplane.” When we talked about it he said he wanted to be ready if he needed to fly a plane. He has grown up to indeed be the responsible man we expected.

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