There's a match struck

17 April 2012

My initial inclination with every post is to start that first sentence with "Hiding in the..." It's true: I'm hiding when I'm writing. There's a match struck and I'm off to the bedroom/office/toolshed before the fire burns out.

She's outside playing with older neighbour girls, and the sad truth is I don't even know their names. I don't think I've ever even seen their parents and all I know is they run up and down the sidewalk, from one apartment to the next, carrying reese's pieces and fingernail polish remover. The three huddle together on top of a picnic table and they all jump, hands hidden behind backs, when I call out to her for dinner. This bugs me a bit, and as she walks in the door, I ask what every mother wants to know at any given moment, every time her child walks through the door.

"What were you talking about?"

And as soon as my tongue hits the t, her big brown eyes form puddles of tears, and my heart sinks into the place she grew for nine months.

A half-hour's worth of crying and pleading hits its peek when she cries, "I'm afraid to tell you because you won't want me in your family anymore." This is when you know you've crossed a parenting threshold, the one you know will come soon enough, but you're always surprised when it does. You think to yourself, she's only five!, and it's too soon for her to know shame.

So the truth comes out and it's not super great, but it's not worst case scenario, either. You explain to her about value and violence, about privacy and respect, about her body and theirs. You hate to even bring up strange words bearing heavy weight, but it's too late now and if you don't define them, they will. And you tell her that secrets lie. You explain what it means when a friend, or a stranger, or an adult tells her not to tell. And you know it could be so much worse... but really, it feels like the door has been opened and you can't keep her from walking beyond its shallow frame.

These children, I've never seen their parents, but I wonder if I have to love thy neighbour as my child. Loving thy neighbour as myself seems like nothing in comparison.


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