We are fast approaching one of the most important days of the year. A day to remember and reflect. A day to appreciate the men and women who currently serve to protect our beautiful country. And a day to remember those in the past who went off to war on our behalf, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice meant to keep Canada strong and free. A sacrifice paid for with blood and tears.
But how can I explain this to my school-age children? How can I impress upon them the importance of this very special day? I'll admit it's a heavy task. Here are some of the things I do to impress the importance of Remembrance Day upon my children.
1. I talk to them about it throughout the year.
Not just on Remembrance Day, but other times, too — as opportunities arise. This kind of discussion tends to be very short, simple and matter of fact with younger children, but as they get older I can really start to share some hard truths with them. Truths like the fact that in many different wars over the years, men and women went off to war for Canada. They left their moms, dads, wives, husbands and, in some cases, kids to trudge off to war. They left the comfort of their home for the cold, wet trenches and left the calm of Canada for the constant fear of war elsewhere.
These people were likely afraid. Very afraid. They were likely cold and hungry sometimes. They endured seeing friends die right next to them. They went to sleep each night not knowing if it would be their last. And they did all of this for us. For you and me and all of our fellow Canadians. And we should be grateful. Not just on Nov. 11 each year, but every day.
2. I make it personal (where possible).
If there is any relative or friend who fought for our country, I will tell my kids about them. I tell them about how my grandfather went to serve in the Second World War, leaving his wife and young son at home. He ended up training other soldiers and thankfully came home again. I also tell them about how my grandmother's brother was killed overseas during the Second World War. He was never returned to his family.
This is what sacrifice looks like, children. Real sacrifice.
I talk with my children about this family member who was lost in war to help them realize that the sacrifice is not abstract. It is not other families. Their very own great grandma, who they knew well, lost her younger brother to one of these wars. She and her family likely sent him off as a hero with fanfare and love, and then later got a letter saying he was killed in action. Killed overseas, a long way from home. This is what sacrifice looks like, children. Real sacrifice.
3. I will go to the Remembrance Day assembly at their school when I can.
When I am able to see what they are learning at school, then I can use our conversations at home to reinforce and even sometimes expand on what they've learned. I make sure we are at some ceremony every year. There are so few soldiers left from the World Wars. We need to honour these veterans while we can and learn from them. We need to hear the stories they share and keep their stories alive.
4. I will take them with me to buy poppies.
And we will buy new poppies every year. I used to wonder why poppies were so easy to lose and one year I even worked on figuring out a way to keep mine for the following year. Now I'm thinking why on earth would I do that? Buying new poppies every year is one of the ways that veterans collect donations and I am more than glad to buy them for my family each year. It's the very least I can do.
5. I will tell them why we fight wars.
I try to explain to my kids that Canada might be a very different place if our soldiers had not joined forces with other countries to fight against evil. I talk about why wars, though awful, are sometimes necessary. Our country might not have remained a place where people could feel safe holding true to their culture, religion and beliefs. This country could possibly be under totally different rule today. It took our soldiers, fighting alongside the soldiers of other brave countries, to enable us to continue to be the "true north strong and free." And I am grateful.
6. I will respect this time of year.
We won't be putting up Christmas decorations until after Remembrance Day out of respect for veterans. I explain this to my children so they know why we wait.
Thank a veteran today and let's be so grateful for all they've done for our great country.
7. I will tell them that war is still a reality.
I will be sure to let my children know that there are soldiers from Canada who are in the line of fire today. They are on peace keeping missions or are in war torn areas and they are in danger. They are risking their lives even now on behalf of our country.
8. I will tell my kids that they might see me cry on Remembrance Day.
When I am at a ceremony and the enormity of what's been done for us falls upon me, then sometimes there are tears. Embarrassing for you, my kids? Possibly. But I will never be sorry or ashamed for any single one of those tears. The soldiers who fought gave up so much more than tears. They gave their lives. Their last breath, their life's blood. Their families gave more tears than enough. The least I can do is cry.
Never forget, my children, that the peace and freedom we have in Canada, we owe to those who came before us. Those who bravely fought to make sure that no one could take it from us. Thank a veteran today and let's be so grateful for all they've done for our great country.
Lest we forget.
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