Do you remember the moment when you knew that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy weren’t real? Some of you may still believe in them, but I’m talking about that edge of childhood. That place where you no longer feel fully invincible (yes teenagers go back to that place for a while but bear with me). Where sadness or meanness enters your life, a world where children are shot and killed in their own school. In a schoolroom where a mean kid leaves someone out, and won’t let them play the game with the other kids. Or the kid on the climbing wall with the harness on and ropes secured who freezes, can’t go any further, ‘cause they now fear the ropes might not hold?
That’s the edge I’m talking about. That is the place where you leave the complacency of childhood behind. The ability to play full heartedly not thinking about any consequences or things that could go wrong. An unawareness of evil and planes that fly into buildings, killing the passengers, and taking the buildings with them, do you remember that place? It’s one thing to comfort your child from the nightmare that there’s a monster under the bed. How do you tell them it will be OK, as you watch the horror struck faces of runners & spectators as severed limbs are attended, after two young brothers’ casually deposited gym bags of bombs at their victim’s feet?
I remember receiving a phone call from my son, hysterical as he listened to the reports of students gunned down on the Virginia Tech campus. What do I tell him, other than come home; maybe I can keep him safe? Or the call full of tears as my daughter melts down, stressed by life and things she can’t control. Or the way my stomach feels sucker punched, after learning that a mother in my son’s class called all the parents accusing him of being a bully, when it turns out it’s her son.
Yes, as a parent, as human being, as a woman, as a member of society, there is such a short period of time that I can protect my offspring from reality. And I didn’t believe in hovering and I did let them fall, having their share of skinned knees and bruised foreheads. Skin heals pretty fast in the scheme of things. Bruised egos and hurt souls, those are boo-boos that aren’t so easy to cure with a kiss and hug. Sometimes it hurts more to see them suffering than anything else.
But all of these things are part of the human story. Giving them the tools to cope with the harsh realities of this world that we live in, is the only thing I can do. I just hope they can protect their gentle egos and tender souls without closing off to the beauty. My worst fear is that they become bitter and ugly too. Because despite all the ugliness and hatred in the world, there’s still something sublime about the sound of a child’s laugh, the giggling cause by a dog’s lick, a high five when a good play is made, or an “I’m sorry I made a mistake” accompanied by a hug after harsh words.
There is a moment when they cross the line out of childhood innocence. There is also a moment when regardless of all the rest, they rise above and join those creating not destroying. I choose to be part of the 20 percent minority, I hope when they realize that there’s no fairy godmother, they choose to be aware, thoughtful and responsible for themselves. To join those of us who make choices, who do things, build things, and take their lives in their own hands, rather than depending on someone else to re-create the fairy tale of a world that we all once inhabited as small children.