He wondered why we didn't take him to jail, why we killed him, why did we dump him to the bottom of the ocean, and if sharks got him. I was somewhat conflicted about letting him watch (it was 5pm evening news and there was nothing graphic), but in the end decided it was ok for several reasons. First, he plays guns (despite our best efforts to discourage it - it seems to be some wierd innate boy thing - and it should be noted that we do not have any toy guns around the house except water guns which he does not equate truly as a gun), and so we do our best to discuss why guns are dangerous and what the consequences are when someone shoots another person. I think he may actually be listening to all our talk because while explaining that he was killed by a gun he said 'that's why we don't play with guns'. This is a real event with real consequences and I felt it was a good learning opportunity.
Second, he loves talking about good guys and bad guys, and so he was asking who had the guns and why the good guys had to shoot the bad guys. We explained at a 5-year old level who bin Laden was and why the soldiers had to do what they did, and he seemed to understand that he was a pretty bad guy and the soldiers are protecting people. He still didn't understand why we didn't just take him to jail where bad people belong, so we had to explain that the bad guys were shooting at the good guys. He seemed to understand and I could see he is beginning to really comprehend the danger of guns, although it is certainly elementary. He has also been wondering quite a bit about bad guys and has wanted to ask our priest for some time why God made bad guys. This kid is a thinker!
This was an interesting parent moment for me. I don't want my kids to live completely shielded from everything, and I know 5 years old seems pretty young to be discussing bin Laden. He had so many questions that we really felt it was best to answer them as age appropriate as possible, and I could really see him thinking about it because he kept asking more questions. I think I was most impressed with how intelligent his questions were and how he was pulling different ideas together from what we've talked about and what he saw on the news program.
I always hear about teachable moments as a teacher, but they also come to us as parents and we have to be ready to jump on them. Hopefully we did a good job of communicating the facts and seriousness of the matter as well as making him feel like he can always come to us with questions. We also wanted to do our best to communicate that guns, war and killing is very scary and does not make anyone feel happy, and that we should do our best to solve problems It will be interesting to see if he processes it a bit more and asks about anything else. Parenting is such an interesting journey!