You live in an isolated area close to a forest. You have almost everything you need right where you are, but from time to time you need to travel to the village, which is on the other side of the woods. There are wolves in the woods. It’s okay though, you know about the wolves, you can avoid them or defend yourself if necessary (most of the time), so you are only mildly concerned about the wolves. But you have children. What do you tell your children about the wolves?
On the one hand, you are (mostly) safe in your house, and you don’t want your children to be terrified all the time. You don’t want them to wake up with wolf nightmares and anxiety and tell you that they are afraid to play out by the garden in case a wolf comes out of the forest. You want your children to feel safe and secure, because (for the most part) they ARE safe and secure. But on the other hand, there are wolves in the forest.
If your children don’t know about the wolves, then they will not be prepared when they meet one. And they will meet one. Not today maybe, but someday. Someday they will be older, and they will come with you to the village. Someday they will go to the village on their own. And the wolves will be there. And sometimes, sometimes, the wolves come of the forest. You do not want your children looking out into the garden and seeing something fuzzy to pat without seeing the teeth. You want your children to be safe, and knowledge can provide safety. But they are just children. How do you let them know about the wolves without freaking them out.
Here is the biggest problem. You wish that the wolves were not there for your children. You? You’ve been through the forest a few times, and you’ve dealt with the wolves before. You don’t love the wolves, but you’ve made your peace with a world in which they exist. Most of the time. But your children, they shouldn’t have to deal with wolves, right? Isn’t there a chance that they could get through the woods every time without ever seeing an actual wolf? Sure, there’s a tiny chance. But no, even if we just hear them howling in the distance, we will all encounter the wolves eventually. The children need to be prepared.
So you tell them, “stay out of the forest.” Why? Because there are wolves there. What’s a wolf? It’s bad, and just stay out of the forest. You are not going to describe the teeth and the drool and the way the jaws close around a person when a hungry wolf attacks. You are just going to say “stay with me and be safe.” You don’t want the children to know what wolves do. It’s bad enough that you have to tell the children about the existence of wolves at all! You certainly don’t want the graphic details running around their little heads. You ration out the wolves. Slowly. You don’t even get started on the bears that live in the mountains. One by one you give your children the number of wolves that they can handle, and you watch their innocence slip away from you.
You try to control it. You try to ration it out. But what about when the wolf is in your house? What about when the wolf is on your television or your computer? What if the wolf is involved in a national process that everyone is talking about, at school, at home, on the bus, on the streets? Are your children ready for that wolf? Are you ready for that wolf? You have no choice. The wolf is at your door. Your children have seen the wolf. They have heard the wolf. You are out of options. Ready or not, it’s time to teach them to defend themselves. Because this isn’t the last wolf. It’s just the one in front of you right now. There will be more. And you have children.