A father playing with his daughter outside


Even If A Nuclear Bomb Were About To Fall On Us, My Daughter Would Never Know

Apr 14, 2022

When I think of “the talk” I think of many things.

But not once did it ever cross my mind that I might have to talk to my daughter about nuclear annihilation someday.

Because when I talk to my dad about his experiences, those threats seem far in the distance.

And when I read my grandfather’s World War II journal, documenting the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it reads like ancient history to me.

Given the hardships they’ve endured, it’s probably no wonder that I hoped those days were well past us.

And yet lately, it feels more like those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Do your kids have questions about Ukraine? Here is a kid-friendly approach to what's going on right now.

Boom With a View

I know wars and conflicts aren’t new. They certainly do not begin and end with Russia and Ukraine.

But during this particular world event, there appears to be some degree of instability.

I say this because Vladimir Putin is showing the world his cards, with veiled threats that sound a lot like nuclear devastation.

And I worry that pushed enough, the desire of pressing a symbolic big red button that reads “NUKE” might prove too desirable.

When you’re backed into a corner and you’re running out of moves … anything could happen.

And that degree of the unknown is scary. Not just to me, but to a lot of people.

It’s My Burden, Not Hers

It’s a potential nightmare I’ve chosen to entertain. Even if part of me hates that I need to think this way at all.

But it’s my worry.

In fact, the worse a situation is, the less I want to talk about it with my very young daughter.

As I see it, what good will come of discussing the threat of nuclear war with a child who is more concerned about when her next play date might be?

Should a rocket race toward the GTA, you can be sure my daughter won’t have a clue.

"It’s a potential nightmare I’ve chosen to entertain."

Because in an event like that, I just want us to enjoy the last bit of time we have together. To not fret about the things we could have done, but to live in the present.

Should the world be coming to an end, I will be playing outside in the sun with my daughter. We will, as we always do, dance until the song is over.

I know that there’s a lot of fear driving this particular discussion, but perhaps you’ve had similar feelings reading the news these days?

To me, it doesn't feel like an extreme position to have in 2022.

But once you start absorbing all the news, I know it can be a hard hole to crawl out of.

Creating a Happy Home

There will always be challenging subjects I’ll need to discuss with my daughter.

Every day I parent, I’m always trying to impart some lesson or wisdom.

However, like me, she doesn’t possess the power to stop a bomb. The situation is terrifying and complex and leaves most adults feeling powerless.

And that’s a feeling I don’t think she needs to experience right now.

I’d rather hope for the best. And dream of a scenario in which this gets worked out, so these feelings can be shelved later as the hysterics of war. One day, instead of being turned to ash, she will open a history textbook and read about this grim chapter.

And she’ll come home and ask: “How close were we?”

By doing so, I’m letting my child hold onto something today: her childhood.

A childhood where she explores unknowns and holds an optimistic view of her future.

She’ll be optimistic, but not ignorant.

"Her dad’s opinion isn't absolute."

We’ll inevitably talk about drugs, alcohol, sex, death and a myriad of topics that can be challening for parents to breach. Conversations that have the potential to shape my daughter’s trajectory — themes in which she possesses some control.

Recently she asked, “If when we die there is only darkness, what was the point of living at all?”


I jumped in: “Aw come on, the meaningless of life is the best part.”

She wasn’t impressed. Nor properly convinced.

“Um … I really hope that's not the best part, Dad.”

Even as I explained that a meaningless life means we are free to take whatever meaning we want from it, I sensed that she thought I was wrong.

Which was precisely the right opportunity to explain that her dad’s opinion isn't absolute.

There are many people with thoughts about life and the afterlife, and since she’s begun asking questions, she is now among these great minds. 

A neighbourhood squirrel inspired Joseph Wilson to have conversations about death with his young girls.

Generally Speaking

As I see it, let the adults panic about nuclear fallout if it helps them in some way. And let the children play.

I tell my daughter that there are beautiful moments that happen to everyone.

There are moments so powerful that they seem to last forever. And yet, they also seem just as fleeting. As if the most precious moments at our fingertips can be simultaneously epic and impermanent.

I make sure to illustrate that it’s OK to imagine whatever she wants when it comes to death. Even if that doesn’t align with my own beliefs of life and death. It doesn’t matter if she believes something that may not be true — is there harm in wanting more after you die?

It is for this reason that we dance and play and love, and we do it every day.

Because in the fog of war, how different is it really from every day?

My daughter could get hit by a car, or a pack of rabid coyotes could come bounding out of the woods to tear us to shreds.

Existential threats face humans every second of every day. You can either accept them, or be burdened by them.

I don’t see it as rationale for my family to stop living. To abandon our optimism.

So, if my family was given one last day to live, what would we do?

Simple: the same thing we did yesterday and the same thing we will probably do tomorrow: dance until the song is over.

Article Author Quentin Janes
Quentin Janes

Quentin Janes is a writer whose influences include Raymond Kurtzweil, Steven Pinker, Noam Chomsky, Niall Ferguson, Jeremy Rifkin and Martin Luther King Jr — among countless others. He is a putterer, a tinkerer and a fixer of broken things. From bad grades to bad dogs to toilets, kids or drywall, he says he can fix it all.



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