Yesterday my two granddaughters and I spent the day together. First we went to the park where we encountered a Day Care Center that was using the park for a day camp. The place was overrun with 10 or 12 year-old boys that wouldn’t share most of the playground equipment. We were clearly outnumbered and outmaneuvered. And the adults were either clueless or careless. Either way, we sort of played around the perimeter of the place until it just became too much work and then we left for lunch.
After lunch we went to the swimming pool. The pool is a community pool at my daughter Bess’s subdivision, and while “private” it is a community pool so there are other swimmers there that we don’t know – strangers if you will.
We all warn our kids about strangers – you know those scary adults that look creepy and lurk around unsuspecting little children: STRANGER DANGER! But yesterday we encountered another kind of stranger. This one was probably about 4 or 5 years old; a little girl in a Disney swimsuit. She seemed nice enough in the “baby pool” with her limp blond hair and little half-smile. That was until she opened her mouth. And then out it came: “Hey let’s play shark!” Anna, my three year-old granddaughter responded, “But we can be friendly sharks, okay?” Then strange-girl shouted with a snarl, “NO!” Anna and Charlise were kind of taken aback by strange-girl’s response. The next thing that transpired was an exchange of names. I couldn’t quite make out all the words but the demon-child said very loudly, “Anna’s not a real name – Annie is a real name!” Anna tried to reason with her but to no avail. I’m not sure what strange-girl had to say about Charlise’s name but I’m sure it was unkind.
Okay, at that point both Bess and I were on HIGH ALERT. But the tiny little beast was completely in control of the “baby pool”. We just sat there hapless and helpless. The next thing that strange-girl proclaimed was that, “If you step on those black things (the bottom drains in the pool) it’ll KILL YA!” Well that definitely got my attention! Who was this girl? Where were her parents? And at what point should I intervene???
Memories of my own children when young came flooding back. And silently I screamed: SAVE THEM! DON’T LET THE BAD GIRL RUIN THEIR SWEETNESS!! I want Charlise and Anna to only be “friendly sharks”; I want them to believe in unicorns and fairies; I want them to love rainbows and bunnies; I want their worst dreams to be ones where the cookie jar is empty or they’ve dropped their ice cream cones.
There’s time enough to grow up and face the harsh realities of life. But please God not yet – NOT TODAY. Please let them remain innocent a little longer. Please!!!
I’m afraid yesterday a little bit of that innocence was stolen by a tiny stranger (who probably has an older brother who plays “mean shark” and tells her name is stupid). And I just sat there dumbfounded while my pure little girls were subjected to what I’m sure is only the beginning of a lifetime of playground bullies, mean girls and other evil. I didn’t like it one bit – this feeling of powerlessness; knowing that strangers will continue to steal little pieces of their innocence. And one day they might lose their innocence completely – gasp!!!
I want to hold them in my arms and tell them all sharks are friendly and that no one will ever hurt them but I know that’s not possible. I can only help them be prepared for a world where everyone is not as beautiful as they are. And more prayers will be required…