The other day, the Munchkin read yet another label on something that said “Made in China.” He then turned and asked me, “Why is everything made in China?”
OK, I’ve got this one covered. “Well you see, son, China is a very big country that is able to produce many things.”
All right, that should be good enough for a five year old, he’ll move onto something else, I’m sure.
No such luck.
“But why do they make so much?”
“Well, there are many reasons why. Uhhhh, they have a large population, which means they are able to pay people less money to work because it is easy to find workers who will work for less money than someone else.”
“That sounds bad.”
“It isn’t necessarily bad, although some people do think it is bad. But it works for China and so they do it that way.”
By this time I am sweating bullets because I accepted the assignment, but I’m afraid something is going to self-destruct. Probably me. Does my son really need to know about the yen being artifically low, labor abuses, trade agreements, and all the many factors that enable China to produce so much stuff?
Q&A sessions like this are the hardest part of parenting for me because I know that younger children tend to see things in a very compartmentalized way. This is how they make sense of such an overwhelming world, often by placing things in “good” and “bad” categories.
But it is the nuance of a situation, the various shades of gray, that children need to understand the most. The world is just not that simple. However, too much information can be just that, a Charlie Brown teacher “waa-waaa-waaa-waaa” for a kid with no frame of reference about geopolitics, economics, or world powers.
On the other hand, giving an oversimplified, sugarcoated explanation is just as bad, if not worse.
Striking that balance is one of the most important things a parent can do to make sure that their children develop critical thinking skills.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go crawl through some air ducts, descend into a motion-sensitive room on a wire, and hack into a computer.
Because that’s my other job.
And it’s a lot easier.