Last night Sebastian wasn't listening. I was in a patient mood, so I sat him down to talk about it to see if there was some reason he wasn't listening. "Are you mad or something?" I asked.
"I'm sad," he answered.
"Sad? What about?"
As I probed further I realized he meant the Second World War.
Why would my five year old child in 2020 be concerned about World War II? Two stories.
Over the recent holiday weekend we watched the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which begins with the London Blitz and the Pevensie children being sent into the English countryside. Sebastian had this spring also watched a number of times Return to Neverland, the Peter Pan sequel also set during the Blitz.
So, he asked questions about what was going on in the movies, which prompted me to tell him about the war. And to personalize it by sharing stories of his great-grandfather who had served. Knowing me, I'm sure I was a little emotional telling about it.
Then, last Thursday, we were driving home from piano lesson and he saw a billboard on I-80 for the Marines that had the Iwo Jima Monument pictured on it. He asked what the image was, so I told him and he immediately connected with the earlier conversation. I said that none of our family, that I knew of, had fought at Iwo Jima. He responded, "But they fought in the war?" Yes. "And they fought for freedom?" Yes (and score parenting points).
Clearly Sebastian has no sense of the war being seventy years ago. All he knows is that twice recently it has come up and both times he's felt some familial and personal connection and sensed emotion from his father. So, for him, this historical event must feel very real.
And the more I reflected on this moment, the more I felt awed by his empathy and intelligence.