The Giver: How my daughter learned about abortion.
My daughter is 10. She knows a lot of Justin Bieber lyrics. She knows how to style side-swept bangs and make a bowl of raman noodles. She knows how to make her guests feel welcome, Skype a friend, walk the dog.
There are other things she doesn’t know, things she’s only lets me tell her about in small pieces, manageable nibbles of the whole thing. When she wanted to know about babies I would tell her one small thing and then ask, “Do you want to know more?” Often the answer was, “Ew! No!”
She heard the references of abortion during our last presidential campaign. We were sitting on the couch curled up in a fuzzy blanket and I told her that “Sometimes when a woman gets pregnant she realizes she doesn’t want the baby. So… she does something to get rid of the baby. Do you want to know more?”
I always think I’m going to be ready for these kinds of conversations, but then they pop up out of no where and I find myself stumbling over thoughts, wondering if the words are coming out right and then analyzing what I said afterwards.
Her 5th grade class started reading The Giver by Lois Lowry and she couldn’t talk about it enough. I ended up buying the Kindle version so that she can read ahead, outside of class, and so I can read it also. I want to know about this book that has so taken my daughter captive (and also because several reviews I read online tagged it as ‘controversial.’)
The story takes place in the future, where the government has so taken control that there are no more mistakes, pain, lawlessness, etc… In fact, no choices at all really. Families are not families. They are individual people put together by the leaders. Children’s jobs are to learn to be productive citizens, adults contribute by working or making more babies, and when they are no longer able to do either they are sent to live in the House of the Old until they are ‘released.’ Basically, anyone who does not contribute to society or breaks the code of behavior is ‘released.’
11 year-old Jonas and his friends aren’t sure what being ‘released’ means. It doesn’t seem like anyone else does either. All he knows is they disappear. Perhaps they are sent away somewhere pleasant. Like a permanent vacation. His assigned father works in the infant nursery, where babies are kept till they are 1 year-old and are assigned to a family. He makes remarks that babies who will not, for various reasons, be fit for placement are ‘released.’
Through a series of events, Jonas is given permission to watch a video of a ‘release.’ It turns out to be a recording of his father ‘releasing’ an infant.
“His father turned and opened the cupboard. He took out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe with a clear liquid.
Jonas winced sympathetically. He had forgotten that newchildren has to get shots. He hated shots himself, though he knew that they were necessary.
To his surprise, his father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of the newchild’s forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly.
… He pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty.
… As he continued to watch, the newchild, no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion. Then he went limp. His head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still.
… His father loaded the carton containing the body into the chute and gave it a shove. “Bye-bye, little guy.” Jonas heard his father say before he left the room. Then the screen went blank.”
I read this section before my daughter did, and I knew it was going to be time to tell her the whole truth about abortion, and I was sad. One evening I was sitting at my sewing table, she was at the computer, and I heard her chipmunk voice,
“Mom. We read chapter 19 today.”
I dropped my project and sat her on my lap. This time I did not feel I was stumbling over my words. Thhey were coming out exactly right.
“What Jonas’ dad did to the baby in the nursery? That’s what abortion is. Only in real life the dr. does it while the baby is still in the mommy’s tummy. These people kill babies, but they aren’t bad people. They’ve been told it’s ok, and, just like for Jonas’ dad, it seems normal. They don’t know what they’re doing. But we follow Jesus and it’s never ok to take someone else’s life. Ever. And we need to protect babies.”
And then it seems like she is the one stumbling over her thoughts, wondering what the right words to say are.
All she said was, “Oh.”