In 1960, John F. Kennedy made a pretty startling admission to a journalist, Hugh Sidey. Such was his life of privilege and wealth growing up, he explained, that despite being a teenager for the bulk of the 1930s, Kennedy had almost no firsthand knowledge of the Great Depression. His family was rich. They lived in big houses. They traveled just as they always had. He noticed that his father hired extra gardeners so that the men could work and eat, but that was about it. “I really did not learn about the Depression,” Kennedy revealed, “until I read about it at Harvard.”
Can you imagine? It’s nearly unbelievable. More importantly, it’s inexcusable. In 1935, the year Kennedy turned 18, unemployment in America was 19%. The economy was dramatically shrinking. Tens of thousands of veterans had marched on Washington in those years and had to be dispersed with troops for fear they might start a revolution! To think that his father had not talked to him about any of this is nuts. Especially because of the obligation that the fortunate have to consider and care for the unfortunate.
But it does raise a good question: How much should we shelter our kids from the scariness of the world? How much should we protect them from knowing about the day-to-day events of the world that they are not to blame for, that they can’t do anything about? Selfishness aside, there is something sweet about the Kennedy kids missing what must have been a terrifying and stressful ordeal for anyone and everyone. It’s sweet to think there must have been plenty of other less fortunate parents who were trying to do the same thing—they let their kids play, they reassured them, they gave them toys and games and chores to distract them so that they, the adults, could focus on solving the problems of providing and caring for them.
That’s our job as fathers. We’re a buffer. We have to keep unnecessary stress away. We shelter them from the storm. Our spouse—our support network—that’s who we have to bear the burden of these times with. Our kids? Let them be kids. Don’t keep them in a bubble so complete that they are immune to knowing how good they have it, but don’t make them bear what isn’t theirs to bear. Again, that’s on us.
P.S. This was originally sent on July 9, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”