Salt Lake City, UT –
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Six days a week, I load at least one of my three daughters into our van and head out to either a soccer game or a soccer practice. Each of them plays for a different team. This means taking them anywhere from the fields a mile from our house all the way to Logan, Park City or Sandy.
I turn on the radio, glued to the latest news on the war in Iraq.
My girls have heard a lot of the early details of, first, President Bush's ultimatum, and then, the ensuing attacks. All this has prompted questions and concerns from them. I consider myself an informed citizen and a great mom. I've had frequent, open, direct conversations with all of my girls since they could talk. So I thought I was prepared for their worries.
The first question came from my seven-year-old, Rosie. Is the war going to come here, Mommy?
No, sweetie, I assured her, Iraq is a long way away.
Next question, also from Rosie: But aren't there bad people here too, who want to hurt us because we're in the war?
A little tougher. But I told her, well, unfortunately, there can be people who choose to do bad things anywhere...but one of my jobs and Dad's jobs is to keep you safe. As an example, I explained that when she leaves the house, she's either with one of us or with her big sisters. I told her to think about that team she played last Saturday. Remember that girl who pushed and played so roughly? I asked her. That didn't mean the whole team was like that. You just needed to stay aware of where she was, just like we need to stay aware of where the scary people are.
She seemed OK with that answer.
Eleven-year-old Margot wanted to know why we were at war when so few other counties seemed to agree with us. I know England is on our side, she said, in her typically direct manner. But who cares what Cameroon thinks? Wouldn't it make a whole lot of difference if we could have Russia, or at least Germany on our side? I mean, don't they remember anything about World War 2?
Good point, I thought, wondering what to say next. I suppose we need to trust that Bush and Blair know things we don't about evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam Hussein's regime. My voice was growing weaker, along with my explanation. I guess it's kind of like at the end of a tie game, I struggled. When it's just one player at a time against the goalkeeper, shooting penalty kicks.
Yeah, kind of, she replied, rolling her eyes. In her young mind, she knew the analogy was a flimsy one. In my rush to soothe her fears, I didn't want to explain that the reasons for Bush's diplomatic failure at the U.N. were complicated. That the U.S.'s alliance with Germany and Russia was now in disarray, and that going it alone makes the war much more complex. My penalty kick analogy seemed trite. We drove on.
Then a few days later, we heard about the ambush of American soldiers by Iraqis pretending to surrender. We heard the raw reporting of American POW's being tortured and maybe executed. Kallie, my 14-year old asked, What if we lose?
That was the hardest one yet. There wasn't a soccer analogy horrific enough.