Talking to My Preschooler About the Oil Spill
Submitted by Deva Dalporto
I'm an NPR junkie. So instead of listening to something fun like Raffi or songs from Yo Gabba Gabba
, my kids are subjected to listening to world news all day, every day. They've always ignored the grown-up drone, until recently when a story about the BP oil spill
in the Gulf aired. The reporter was talking about Pelicans covered in oil and for the first time my animal-loving preschooler asked, "Mommy, what are they talking about?"
Whoa, Nelly ... where do I begin?
How does one explain a disaster like the BP oil spill to a preschooler? How do you explain something so awful as a billion dollar corporation taking safety shortcuts to save a few bucks that cost 11 lives, destroyed people's livelihood and wreaked environmental havoc? I barely even understand (or want to understand because it's too upsetting) what happened or how it happened or why it's still happening myself. But I felt my daughter deserved to know the truth, so I told her all that I knew and understood. "You know how we get gas for the car to make it go?" I asked, "Uh-huh ... " "Well, that gas is made from oil, and the oil is deep down in the earth so you have to drill down to get it ... "
Instead of shielding her from the awful news, I decided to share it with her. And I couldn't have found a more profound, more compassionate listening partner. I'm in awe of her concern for the animals, her questions about BPs shady safety record, her inability to comprehend why it won't end. It makes me proud of the tiny citizen I'm raising.
Every day as the dismal news airs about the spill, my daughter and I listen intently and she peppers me with questions, most of which I can barely answer. "Why are the fishermen sad?" "Why did they put it down so deep if they can't get to it?" (Um, hello!) "How can a robot fix it?" (Hell if I know!) "Where are the baby turtles going to go?" (Gulp ...) A few weeks into the disaster, she asked what we've all been asking, "WHY won't they clean up their mess, Mommy? It's been a long time." Out of the mouths of babes, right? I wish I had an answer for her, but I all I have is the same question.