Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Really Protect Your Children

Tonight, I took the kids to the little park across the street from our new house.  It's practically in our front yard.

I sit here and type words then delete them (that almost never happens), trying and failing to do justice to everything in my heart tonight. Here's the summary: We went. They played. I came home and bawled my eyes out.

Friends visit our new neighborhood and most of them say it's not as bad as they thought it would be.

On the one hand, it's nice to hear.

On the other hand, it was never really about bad/not bad. It's just where we were sent, so we're going. We're not going with expectations or a God complex. We don't have a plan or a goal.

The neighborhood, it doesn't look so bad, I suppose. It could be so much worse. We're going to live our lives and we'll need some friends. I think the neighborhood is full of good people, some of whom have had hard lives. They need the exact same things I need. I hope they will be my friend. That's what I think.

All of that is easy enough to say, until you're sitting there at the picnic table near moms who scream things at their children like, "If you don't stop spitting at me, I'm going to beat you up!" or like, "#%^&$%!" They lounge on towels on the dead grass like it's Daytona Beach, half their hind ends hanging out. Their babies drink Sunny D from bottles and wander away, mostly unnoticed.

So, this is where I'll be living. That's what I kept saying to myself. I'm moving here. I could look down the street and see Cory and Robert, painting boards in the garage of my brand new future.

It's not really about the houses on the street. Some are really bad. Some are good. A few (including mine) are great.

Isn't life always about people?

Ruby will be friends with the girl who looks back at me like I have three heads when I ask if she's going to kindergarten. She is. She's going to kindergarten. But she's not familiar with the word. All she knows is that she's going "to the one where they tell you your numbers and ABCs". Then she picks up her towel and walks back down the street, all the way out of my line of vision, completely alone.

Here's the tricky part: I want to love these people. I already kind of do. But I also feel that instinct to keep my kids the heck away. I really understand the urge to shelter them right now and then just keep sheltering them, forever. Can't I insist that they only play with the sweet little girl in braids whose mama sat reading a paperback book, doling out Oreo cookies with a smile?

I don't know how this will play out. We can't just decide not to go to the park where the sketchies hang out. We are moving to the park. We're going where they go because it would be wrong not to. It would be disobedient to say no to this.

So the Devil knows he's got me on his line and he starts yanking the hook further in. Maybe this is wrong. Maybe we'll regret it, just like they say we will. Maybe we're bad parents. Maybe we're idiots.

We walk down the hall, into rooms with the smoochiest sleeping babies. I kiss their lips, because I want to and I can. We hold their little brown hands and we pray, not even in a whisper. We pray in silence, because it's all the same to Him. Guard their ears, their eyes, their hearts. Keep them innocent. Let them see their purpose, there. Let us all fall in love.

It strikes me in those darkened rooms that I have never prayed so fiercely for the hearts of my children. I've never had to. I've never been so helpless to be everything they need. I can't do it this time. We're coming out from behind the divide and it could get ugly.

But He has promised that He's coming with us. He's told us we're in the palm of His hand. And even though He's said it a thousand times before, I've never needed to believe Him more than right now. I've spent most of my life ensuring my own safety, my own success. I've crocheted my own nets. Now, all bets are off. It feels a little wild and wooly, but it also feels strangely, stupidly right.