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Where’s The Big Wave, Mommy?

I found out about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with Jack right next to me. We were huddled in my bed – Jack playing with my phone while I tried to sneak a few more minutes of sleep. Finally I gave up and yanked my laptop up from under the bed (where do you keep yours?)and opened it to see what was going on in blog- and Twitterland.

All the tweets about Japan sent me straight to and a horrified “oh my goodness” whooshed out of me. My sensitive three-year-old instantly clued into my tone. “What’s the matter, Mommy? What’s the matter?”

Maybe I shouldn’t have let him, but we watched the early news clips together. We watched a shaking office, and a wave that ploughed through parking lots and yards and finally homes. We clicked through pictures of destruction, shell shocked faces. Jack was particularly impressed by a photo of a small car sitting on top of a house. The giant whirlpool footage really confused him; it was like watching the bathtub drain on a massive, terrible scale.

Even as I clicked on more and more news stories, I wondered about exposing a preschooler to all of this, particularly a worrisome, observant sort like mine. But this is life, I thought, and found myself explaining earthquakes (“when, uh, the ground starts shaking”) and tsunamis (“when all the shaking creates a really big wave”).

A few days ago Jack, quite out of the blue, informed me that Jerry, his beloved teddy bear, was “not a toy”.

“Um,” I said, “yes, he is.”

“No, he’s not ,” Jack said, insistent. “He comes with us.”


“When the fire comes, Jerry comes with us.”

“OH,” I said, remembering that Fire Safety was a recent preschool topic. And here was my kid, weeks later, worried about whether we’d save Jerry in a fire. We talked about how we’d most definitely WANT to save Jerry, but that Jack and Molly were the most important and we had to take care of them first. This was accepted with narrowed eyes and a teenageresque sigh.

And now, during the last few days, Jack brings up The Big Wave. Will The Big Wave get us? No, we live too far from the ocean. What about the ground shaking? Yes, that might happen where we live, but we’ll be okay. Where IS The Big Wave? The Big Wave was in Japan. What’s Japan?


Even on vacation this week, Jack wonders about The Big Wave. When the plane landed and he asked where we were, I said, “California?” And he said, “Is this where The Big Wave goes?”

So maybe I shouldn’t have showed him anything, shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe I was caught up in wanting to know everything right when I found out, and didn’t give enough thought to how experiencing all of that with Jack might affect him. On the other hand, he’s no dummy. Right now he’s even fascinated by the ocean and underwater creatures, and big waves are just part of what the ocean does. I also don’t mind that he knows people are suffering in another country and need our prayers and help. Is three too young for that?

Have you talked about Japan with your children?