As a little girl, at about 7:30 a.m. in the morning, I’d open the front door, crack the screen to peer outside and determine if the newspaper had landed on our driveway. Listening, reading and watching the news constituted an important part of our daily lives and every morning, I watched as my father and mother passed the pages of the paper back and forth dissecting the front page, the coupon section or the business guides. I hopped into the news too – grabbing the comics, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Garfield and the Love Is cartoons garnering my attention. On the weekends, I loved scouring the Target circular or reading the weekend morning profiles in the USA Today glossy color pages. We would spend entire Sunday mornings sinking into the news.
In the car, my father preset his dial to talk radio or one of the other news stations, while at home watching Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite were a must during the evenings. At 5:30 p.m. all of us came to heed the call of the nightly news with my father asking that my mother keep the blender noise to a minimum, as well as warning my sister and me not to make too much noise when we crossed the living room. At night, I could hear my father reading a few passages out of the paper to make certain my mother didn’t miss a story. He’d say, “You have to listen to this. It’s important.” The external world, the political climate, the stories which captured much of the world and nation acted as a compass for family discussions.
In graduate school when I couldn’t sleep at night I often tuned into the news. It’s funny what acts as a lullaby – it reminded me of home and my family and the comfort of engaging in a routine I shared with my mother, father and sister. Connecting with the news seemed like a luxury ten or twenty years ago – today, with a click on our mobile devices we are able to access current events instantaneously. News pulses everywhere, even when you aren’t looking for it. Skimming through profiles on Facebook, pop culture updates might come up on the side bar or news of a terrorist attack. The stream never stops.
This past weekend I did tune into the coverage of the Paris attacks. All of it horrific. The darkness is so consuming sometimes it is futile to even attempt to make any sense of it. Because I don’t think we can. After a few minutes of watching some of the headlines, I became aware of my daughter walking into the living room. She has studied the Eiffel Tower and has expressed interest in traveling abroad to both Paris and London. She’s at the age where she is learning about the sadness, melancholy and terror of the world. Last week she mentioned concentration camps and slavery as subjects which were discussed as a part of a social studies review. When she brought it up, the tilt of her awareness drew a gasp from me. I know this knowledge will lead her to explore the importance of sadness and joy and the pendulum between the two – something I often try to grapple with in my writing.
I surprised myself. I turned off the news. I knew what happened and I wasn’t ready to delve into the world of terrorism and the complicated layers of explaining atrocities I will never understand. But I realized this wasn’t the first time I started ignoring the news. We don’t tune in to the 5:30 p.m. nightly news or rush to the driveway to gather the paper – news doesn’t hold the same allure as it once did, sitting in my childhood living room. It’s the accessibility, the tempo of it and yes, the melancholy of learning about such sadness in the world – and knowing there is very little I am able to do about it.
Ignoring the news certainly doesn’t mean I am unaware of it, but I am choosing to siphon it in a way which makes sense for me and my daughter. Grappling between sorrow and happiness means learning to let go in unexpected ways.
Image: Newspapers B&W (4) by Jon S via Flickr
The news was always important in my childhood home and in my life. I respect the way that you feel but I believe it’s important for my children to know about current events and the world we live in. As much as we want to shield them from such horrors, we can’t .
I agree, Ayala. I do think its important for children to have awareness about events, but I think some kids may need extra time to process such horrors. Perhaps as she ages, I’ll be more willing to let her view current events as they are happening. I do appreciate your perspective, Ayala. xo
Rudri, this is a subject more people should be talking about. I think that it’s important that kids see the news. Fewer and fewer people seem to know what is going on any more and allow themselves to be spoonfed very little real information. But it’s possible to go overboard and be too dependent on (addicted to) the news. And news without guidance from the parents isn’t very healthy for kids either IMO.
You raise good points regarding news and parent discussion. When my daughter hits the tweens and teen years, those conversations will have more depth to them. Right now, though, I think stepping back is the right decision for her. Love your insight, Luanne. Thank you.
I think that makes perfect sense. Turning it off by no means means you are censoring the world either. Sometimes it’s harsh or just plain dumb. Doing it in your words is better.
We had the news on all weekend only because the kids were away!
I love how you say that turning it off doesn’t mean censoring their world. Yes, exactly. Thank you.
Rudri, our house was the same way about news. I’m a little nostalgic reading your words. 🙂 Do you remember when there was an afternoon paper too? Crazy how something that seemed so vital can change so quickly (how we access news).
I still prefer the print newspaper and the television news. Yes I get news from Twitter, etc., but for basic information, I still read the paper and try to watch the news. With two kids six and under, I can’t really watch the news around them as much. My six-year old pays way too much attention. I agree that kids need to be informed and aware, but I also agree with you that there is a need to filter. I try to answer his questions honestly, but it is hard to explain the complicated world of terrorism to a six-year old.
Yes, I do remember the afternoon paper and now when I see a newspaper on a driveway it always makes me stop and pause. The newspaper is such a symbol in my life.
I am so impressed you still get the paper. Reading the news with a morning cup of coffee probably allows you to savor the moment.
I stopped watching the news a few years back. I’m aware of what is going on, but I refuse to subject myself to such negativity and heartbreak for an hour every day. Contrary to what others might think I feel I am a better person because of it. I choose to live through my heart, and so much of the news these days instills fear.
The awareness is important, but I don’t feel the need to ingest news continuously. You are right – the fear has a way of tilting your perspective in a negative way.
The news is such a touchy subject for people – concerning whether you follow it all the time and try to only absorb as much as you can without heartbreak. I reacted so sensitively to it as a child that my parents never let me read or watch the news. In college I started reading the news every day, but a few years ago began my “news strike,” where I only read about significant events that are going on. It surprises people, but I find that I am much more functional in day to day life.
And that last paragraph – yes, that exactly. Learning what you can let go of and processing in a way that can be sustained in daily life.
I became aware of the negative impact of the news after witnessing my daughter’s reaction. She is highly sensitive and the sadness of the world seems to influence her day-to-day. When she is older, I might reintroduce the news into her life, but for now, I have to let go.