Have you looked around you lately? Our world is a scary place and it only seems to be getting scarier. I feel the strong need to prepare my children for what is to come without possibly having the knowledge of what that really is. How can you do that without encouraging your children to grow strong and responsible and brave, but I don’t think the best way to do that is by stealing our children’s childhood from them.
I want my girls to grow up to be soft and gentle and compassionate in a world that forces them to be tough and hard like liquid nails…so how do I do that?
I thought a lot about this very thing all week as Halloween seemed to zip by us. I love every holiday and I love Halloween. We live in a housing complex where people come from all over to trick or treat. Our houses are conveniently lined up side by side on extra-long blocks with bright street lamps and a strong feeling of safety, so of course mothers and fathers come from all over town and even other towns up to 30 minutes away to get their children the most haul possible in the safest place possible. Some of my neighbors have grumbled about this. Some years we’ve had over 500 kids come trick or treating and yes if you don’t shop smart that can add up. I love seeing all those kids in the craziness that is only solved by leaving the front door open and letting in all the flies in town for several hours. I’m choosing to chalk this up to the reason that my daughter Nan sadly chose not to go trick or treating this year and not to the fact that some of those moms around here thought they should decide for my daughter when she is too old to go trick or treating instead of me, her mom. I’m choosing to think that sheer numbers is why they expressed to her that she was too old not that they really thought that me, her mother, hadn’t taken the time to notice that she was growing up and out of Halloween.
Nan dressed up as she always does. We spent a long time trying to come up with a classy costume, just like we did last year, which was fun and cool and pretty and a little bit more grown up all at the same time, while still being completely innocent. Nan talked and planned for several weeks and she even helped me get the other three children younger than her costumes ready. But when trick or treating time came she chose not to go. Instead her and her friend Bailey hung out and eventually went to another friend in our neighborhood’s house. She didn’t not go trick or treating because she didn’t want to, she didn’t go because several moms last year, including a very dear friend of mine, told her that she was too old to go trick or treating. What???? I never thought that you were too old. Just about the time that you get that way you have a beautiful baby girl or boy to take toddling around door to door and just when they get to old and they have one of those beautiful boys or girls to take around you get to go trick or treating with them. I will never be too old to trick or treat, for I will always have kids or grandkids to take. Our neighbor behind us who is the best grandpa ever talked about that very thing when he was out and about with his daughter and her cute little one trick or treating at our house.
My mother was amazing when I was a child. I remember saying to her when I was preteen, “Is it weird that I still like Barbie’s?” Do you know what she said to me? “Of course not. I still like Barbie’s.” She taught the little girl in me that was feeling the pressure to grow up too young that you can always be young even when you have to be old. I think that is what has kept my mom so sweet and so compassionate in a world that has also been hardening her. She remembers the innocence of being young and sweet and pure and she still is, but don’t for one minute think that she isn’t hard as those liquid nails that I talked about earlier. She’s had to be with the struggles that she has gone through, one of them being my little brother who has struggled with drug abuse and all that that goes with it.
I want my Nan, who is fifteen and very quickly growing up and out of the house, to hold onto all of that innocence and tenderness that comes from childhood. Even the bible says that we need to hold onto that. Luke 18:17 “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. “
So then why has some of these other moms expressed to my daughter that she should be ashamed of some of the childhood rights that she wants to hold onto a little bit longer…and where else do we want these older but not grown kids to be on Halloween anyways. Out causing trouble? Smashing pumpkins and pulling pranks that seem to get out of control? Or maybe find one kind of mischief or another that quite possible could damage them and harden them for the rest of their lives? Why on earth would we want to encourage those kids from our very own neighborhoods to be bored on Halloween and go get into trouble when we can each take our part and lift them up and teach them fun in a healthy safe clean environment. Why wouldn’t that be our first choice?
I know I tend to hold onto my kids’ youth a little longer than some parents. I’ve even had one mom once tell me that her daughter didn’t want to play with mine anymore because I still let her play with dolls and didn’t I think that she was too old to play with baby dolls. My daughter was ten by the way. But my children also know how to work and be serious. They work hard along with the whole family through our family business to do their part to help put food on the table and a roof over our heads, but I only think that is all the more reason for them to learn how to play hard too and to hold onto that inner child that can still have fun and still find innocence when the world requires so much out of them.
I know my daughters, and my sons too, need to learn to be tough or they will never make it through this hard world, but I want them to go about it with a gentleness that speaks of childhood and tenderness and God all the while they are learning to be tough as liquid nails. Why would I want to steal any last moment of this from them when they have a lifetime of a hard world ahead of them? Why would I want to take away that little child that St. Luke says is the only way that any of us can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? Why would any mother want their child to grow up too fast when part of them can always hold onto that innocence that was their childhood? I hope that I am never too old to be young.