PLYMOUTH, MA - NOVEMBER 25: John Kemp (R) portrays pilgrim Steven Hopkins meeting with the colonists Wampanoag Indian interpreter Hobbamock, played by Jonathan Perry (C), as another Wampanoag, played by Melanie Roderick (L), looks on November 25, 2003 at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In real life, parents have the difficult job of teaching their children about the truth about what led to the holiday. (Photo by Michael Springer/Getty Images)2003 Getty Images
My daughter came home last week super excited about Thanksgiving and didn’t waste a minute sharing all she had learned about it at school.
While we were sitting at the dinner table, she started telling us about the Pilgrims and how they had to leave Europe because they lived under the rule of a king who wasn’t good to them. So they came to the United States, she continued, in big ships to start a new life.
The Pilgrims and the Native Americans, the story went, became friends and they taught each other things, like how to fish to survive. To thank them, the Pilgrims shared a big meal with the Native Americans.
Remembering she is only five years old and that she’s pretty much learning about all this for the first time in her short life, I just kind of sat there and let her tell her story. My husband, on the other hand, barely let her finish and immediately told her that that wasn’t exactly how things had happened. But he was pretty blunt about it.
My daughter’s eyes got really big while he tried to explain a more realistic version of what had happened between the Pilgrims and other settlers and the Native Americans. Truth be told, she looked really confused while I was trying to tell my husband that maybe she was too young to understand all that.
“Too little for the truth?” he asked me, pretty incredulous.
He went on to say that there was no need to feed her lies so early on. While I completely agree with him, I also think there are ways of doing that other than completely negating what your excited 5-year-old child comes to tell you she has learned in school.
In other words, I think we need to sit down with her and try to explain what we believe happened during that time in history in a manner that it’ll be as simple as possible for her to understand.
I’m not really sure how to do this, however, and how to avoid creating confusion in her little head. At the same time, I don’t want her to grow up just getting the sanitized version of historical events.
Any suggestions? How have you dealt with this issue? Or have you?
Roxana A. Soto is an Emmy-winning Peruvian-born, Denver-based bilingual journalist and the co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com.