Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, October 6, 2008

Protecting Our Children

I have referred to children before as "gifts," "priceless treasures," and many other names that give an unimaginable value to the babies God places in our lives. I have thought and prayed and written about the unending list of duties of mothers which demands from us such things as protecting and nurturing these little beings as best as we possibly can so they might grow up to be stable and strong, respecting themselves and others, with a deep-seeded love for God. I have succumbed to my role in all its grit and worry and yes, even failings, realizing that as long as I am doing what God asks of me, I am doing what I should. I have been so convicted of my role as a mother and all it entails that I tend to be saddened and sometimes even angry when I see others who take their role about as seriously as they take the idea of space aliens taking over the planet.

This past weekend we visited hubby's Mom. She lives near the bay and on Saturday we took the kids down to a boardwalk on the water and let them play at the playground in the sand. It was a beautiful day and there were tons of kids running about, excited and playing, just having a good time. Their parents stood by and watched as their children enjoyed their freedom. Well, most of the parents anyway. I took particular interest in a little girl my son's age (about 2.5-3) who seemed to be alone at the park. She wandered around, playing with other children but I didn't hear her parents say "stay where I can see you" or "watch out for the other kids on the slide.." etc. At least not for quite some time. Then I saw a girl and a guy, probably about 20, maybe younger, interact with her and another little girl for a brief second but it was just to make a silly face or something unimportant. Then they turned away and started talking to each other.

I identified this couple as the little girl's parents (and apparently the parents of the other little girl who seemed to be about 4). So I watched them for awhile as well as the younger little girl. She climbed inside the playground equipment. She went down by the water. She wandered outside of the playground gates and sat near the road. Her parents didn't seem to take notice of any of her movements. They stood off to the side of the playground near the bathrooms and hung all over each other and talked to each other, seeming to alienate everything outside of their little bubble including their children. For twenty minutes or so, the little girl sat outside the gate unattended. The boardwalk was busy and people were constantly passing by. I was worried for her safety. At any moment, she could dart out into the road or someone could just come by and take her. Finally, the guy said "I should go find so and so." He looked and looked and he couldn't find her. Her mother went closer to the bathrooms and looked for her. For 5 minutes or so, they searched for her and couldn't find her. Then the little girl came back from outside the gates and started playing on the playground equipment again. The guy noticed her and didn't say anything to her about running off or anything to that effect.

Then the guy and the girl told the two young girls to stay where they were and they walked away to stand by the water. The two girls followed them but they paid no attention to them. They stood at the water and made out while the older girl watched and the younger girl played in a big hole that another child was playing in. For another twenty minutes or so, the couple stood at the water and kissed, off in their own little world, while their children played far away from them. At this point, we got our kids and went to the candy store. When we came back, the couple was sitting by the water on the rocks with their backs to the playground. I couldn't see either of their children. I looked for them for a few minutes and I noticed the older girl playing on the equipment but could not see the littler one anywhere.

We were on our way to the car as I witnessed this and I felt like I couldn't just let it go. I was deeply saddened by the lack of concern this couple had for their precious girls. I thought about how easy it would've been for anyone to snatch them unnoticed. I thought about the fact that if I had been an evil person, I could've taken those girls quite easily, put them in my car and driven back to PA where I live and that couple would've never found them. I felt the anger rise in me at the thought of those people not protecting their beautiful children. I didn't want to get involved but at the same time felt it on my heart to say something. I left the kids with my hubby and his mom and walked back over to the play area and down to the water. At this point, I noticed the younger little girl playing inside the big ship that was the playground equipment. Not only was the inside of the ship unseen accept if you look through the few windows it has but from down by the water where the couple sat, the entire area was out of view...especially since their backs were to the playground.

I prayed for God to give me the right words because all I could feel was a growing anger and I knew that I was capable of using that anger to fuel hateful words. As I made my way over to the couple I just asked God to give me peace and speak through me. I began slowly and picked up momentum and courage as I told the couple I was not judging them in any way but that I was a concerned parent with 3 babies of my own and that I just felt that they needed to keep a better eye on their children. I told them about how I watched as their littlest one ran outside to the street and played out there completely unattended for at least 20 minutes and how I felt very sad at the thought that anyone could've just come along and snatched her. The entire time I spoke, the girl just mumbled stuff to the guy and he in turn made rude comments and acted very immaturely. I never once said anything nasty but they seemed very offended. Going over I did not expect that they would just be like "OMG, thanks so much for looking out..." But I never expected such hostility. After a few minutes of encouraging them to be a little closer to their children while they're playing, etc, I realized that my words were probably falling on deaf ears and I turned and walked away.

I understand that not everyone is changed or moved by their role as parents. Some find it very hard to do even the slightest thing that is best for their children. I myself often find it incredibly difficult to really live up to the standards I know God has set for the caretakers of His precious jewels. I fail a lot. But there are some people that are just too self-absorbed to really allow these children to move within their life and it breaks my heart when I happen upon these types (which occurs more often than not these days).

I don't know if I made any impact at all but I felt a little better for having said something to them. The feeling just kept bothering me as we were walking away earlier and I just felt moved to turn around and make an effort to say something to those people. Afterward I said a prayer of thanks to God for giving me the courage and the right words to say and allowing me to remain calm and respectful despite the fact that my heart was crying angry tears inside and the fact that they were being so rude. I also said a prayer for those little girls and for their "parents," that they would be protected and their parents would wake up a little to the reality of their jobs. Those beautiful little girls deserve so much better than that and I can only do what I have done to help them. The rest is in God's hands.

(Perhaps if aliens really do exist, God will send them to take over the planet and wipe it clean of all the parents who don't do the most basic part of their job - protect and care for their children.)

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