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There's a cringe-worthy scene in the beginning of the Sarah
Silverman movie "I Smile Back," in which her character is high on cocaine and calls up a mother from her son's class to
yell at her. The audience watches her
start out the conversation with faux pleasantries, then drop an F-bomb and
The other mother's offense? Her son told Sarah's fictional son
that "Thanksgiving was a lie." You know,
because the Pilgrims stole America from the Native Americans.
When I saw the scene in the theater, I laughed uncomfortably,
because it rang true. I've overheard
parents miffed that their children's playmates spilled the beans about Santa or
mentioned an ISIS beheading during circle time. I get both sides of this argument: Not all families tell hard truths at
the same time.
Well, the night after I saw the movie, I got an email from my son's preschool teacher.
Actually, two emails. In the first, she addressed all the parents explaining
how the children were enjoying their study of Native American history. She mentioned in passing that one student
brought up that "we pushed out the Native Americans," which spurred a deeper
conversation that she was not anticipating.
I read the email to my husband as he brushed his teeth. "It's just like the movie!"
Then, I read the second email, which was addressed only to
me and my husband. In that email, my son's
teacher asked us how my son knew that "we pushed out the Native Americans." When they asked him during school, he said he
I happen to be in favor of him knowing a more accurate version of the Thanksgiving narrative ... Is he too young to know that?
My husband and I stared at each other. We are definitely more on the "tell the
children the truth" end of the spectrum. I happen to be in favor of him knowing a more
accurate version of the Thanksgiving narrative, which includes more than just cornucopias
and pumpkin pies. Is he too young to
know that? I don't think so, but I
respect that other families—and his teacher—may not be ready to go there with
However, we have never discussed this with our son. In fact, my husband and I racked our brains
to think of where he picked this up and came up with nothing. In the morning, we asked him, and from his somewhat
garbled answer, we deduced that he overheard a conversation between my husband
and a friend.
Every parent has to make their own calls about when and what
information to give her children. It's
hard to tailor some conversations so they are appropriate for our little
ones. Sometimes I get it wrong—like the
time I tried to explain miscarriages to my daughter, and she turned around and
explained it to some girls in her kindergarten class. In my
son's case, I hardly know how to better police his eavesdropping.
I'm not upset that my son overheard what he did. Actually, I'm grateful that because of this instance, we had a chance to
talk to him and his sister about Native American history. However, I am braced for a phone call from
someone who's upset that my son injected the Thanksgiving lesson with some
heavy information about how we really "settled" this nation.