Last night as I put my children to bed, I couldn't help thinking of other children who do not have loving parents. I couldn't help thinking of loving parents who for one reason or another, do not have their children.
And I couldn't help thinking of my cousin and her son ... I know this boy so well! He is mere months younger than my Teenybop. I can close my eyes and picture his little face, his cute smile that is at once innocent and mischievous. His blue eyes. The little mole above his lip. His strong little body. His wild and active personality.
In the day-to-day, I look at my Teenybop, and she looks huge to me! This child who was born twenty inches long and weighing only eight pounds ... she is so big now! Six and a half years later, she weighs a little less than fifty pounds and is probably close to four feet tall. I stand amazed when I consciously remember that this little person was once a baby that I grew and nurtured inside my own body. But when I think of the violence that my cousin's son has been exposed to ... She suddenly looks small and fragile again.
When I think of violence and bullying, she looks ... breakable. I am short, but even I tower over her in height. A man like Private Ryan who is roughly the same height as my cousin's son's father ... I can't imagine.
Teenybop sat on my lap last night on our couch and read to me before bed, and I marveled at how well she is reading ... I was recently told that she is well into first grade level reading, ahead in both reading and comprehension. As a reader myself, I am unbelievably proud when she reads to me ... but as a mother in that moment, and as a woman touched in so many ways by violence toward children, I marveled also at how small she still is. She no longer fits in my arms the way she did as an infant, but when she sits in my lap, she is still so small that I have only to look around her skinny arms to see the book she reads. I can feel the bones of the hip my arm is wrapped around, feel the bones of her pelvis as she shifts her weight. I see the child still in her face, I can hear the childish high pitch of her voice and her giggles echo constantly in my mind. She still likes to play at the park, she plays with Barbies and Polly Pockets. She loves Legos, and she loves her cousin who has had such a hard road in his short life.
As she read to me last night and as all these thoughts chased themselves around in my head, I couldn't help but cry in disbelief at what some children are forced to endure as their innocence is stripped away from them. She caught me wiping a tear away, and when she asked, "Mommy, are you okay? My bony butt isn't hurting you, is it?" I couldn't even speak through the tears. I held her, clutched my arms around her little body and buried my face in her hair which smells always like the delicious perfume of sweaty child and shampoo. I stroked her soft skin and calmly explained to her what had happened.
"Will he be okay, Mommy? Why did that happen to him?"
All I could do was explain to her that some grownups do not control themselves well. Some grownups have no business being around children. And some children have a hard childhood to prepare them for adulthood. Only God knows the plans He has for us, the plans He has for these children and their futures. Only He knows why they are allowed to go through so much ... And then I reassured my daughter that she is not in danger, that her daddy and I love her and would give our own lives to protect hers. That we would never hurt her, nor would we allow her to be hurt if we could help it. But we also do not hide truth from her, which is why I chose to tell her what happened ... aside from the fact that we had a playdate scheduled this weekend, and the boy will probably still be bruised visibly, which would have led to some questions better answered in our own home.
Properly reassured of her own safety and that now her cousin will be safe with his mother as well, my daughter promised to pray for him, finished her book and got ready for bed.
As I tucked her in last night and held her again in my arms to hug her goodnight, she said, "Mommy, I'm so sorry I have said that you and Daddy are mean. You aren't mean to me even when I'm being bad and I know you love me. Will you forgive me for saying that?"
I left the room in tears again, thankful that my daughter has never known such hard times ... but also wishing my cousin's little son had not known those times either. NO child deserves that kind of treatment. They should all be hugged and cuddled, praised and loved and played with. Children are a gift and should be cherished.
I'm babbling ... I'm so shaken I can't even string a proper blog entry together ... so I'm signing off.