Parenting • Sep 11, 2015

The parenting lesson I learned from 9/11


Like many people, I remember where I was when the news reports began on September 11, 2001. I was in my car one block from home after working all night at the hospital. I walked in the door at home to see my 10 month old triplets playing on a quilt. The TV behind them would normally have had Blue’s Clues teaching them colors or planets, but today it was teaching a different lesson, the news reports showing the events unfolding.

Almost 15 years have passed since that day when America changed. Much more change has occurred. I’ve been to the Twin Towers site in New York. Much as the museum curators grappled with what story to tell, how much to include and how to define what it is they would like to say; as a parent, I ask myself, “ What does 9/11 allow us to teach our kids?” The answer that comes for each of us will depend on your age, your stage in life, your heritage. For some, the lesson is the historical significance. For me, it is this: almost 3,000 people started September 11, 2001, heading out the door to begin a day that was supposed to be routine. Many became heroes. Many didn’t return home. Did they kiss their spouse good-bye? Did they “hurry up” their kids? Was their last interaction with those they loved one of being “in the moment” or was it rushed in an effort to get to where they were going?

At work, I am oftentimes the last one to walk into a meeting. At times, it sends one of my bosses into orbit. That reaction makes my day, my career, more stressful.  We make choices. Who dictates our life? The clock on the wall or the people in our life that matter? When you ask a friend how he is doing and he says his mother died, do you issue a quick “I’m sorry,” and keep walking to arrive on time? Or do you surrender to the moment and the emotions of another human being reaching out to you? Do you “hurry up” your children through their morning, ignoring the minute of undivided attention they need, ignoring the tummy ache that comes from the unfulfilled minutes and the “hurry ups?” How many of those 2,997 people who died that day have family and friends who wish for a “do over,” a chance to replace the many years of lost moments and “hurry ups?”  Do the bosses who survived, the ones who cut off their employee mid-sentence to end the meeting precisely on time, wish they had made different choices? Does the mom who came home that night without her 4-year-old wish she had let her sweet little girl run back into the house for the stuffed rabbit she had forgotten? For me, 9/11 is a reminder there aren’t any do overs. Moments pass one way or another, living in the moment or obliviously pushing hard to get to the next.

What do we teach our children about the huge loss that day? We teach them about the heroes and the history. And we teach them to honor those who died by appreciating moments the dead were denied. Give your kids a big swing-around-hug, take a walk with your spouse, and ignore the ping of your smart phone telling you there’s another email to read. Because those who died on 9-11-01 cannot.

Want to read more about 9-11? Visit

Need help teaching your child about the historical significance, visit


  1. It was definitely a life-changing event; so many things changed after 9/11. Great post; makes me value the many things I take for granted when I’m busy: how we should do the small, important things with the same determination we have when dealing with our jobs, projects, etc.

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