Innocence cannot be saved. It seems every child will experience this loss. And it always hurts.
Yesterday I watched as my three-year-old son lost some of his innocence to a small group of boys ranging from 4-8 year-olds who were playing across the street. We were inside the house when Pascal noticed them and he wanted to play too.
We helped him put on his shoes, and off he went. In just a few minutes he came walking back sobbing. The older boys were playing a bit rough and making fun of him. As you know every “little kid” wants desperately to be a “big kid.” The boys were taunting Pascal saying things like, “I bet you don’t even know what one plus one, equals?” Hearing this Pascal just stared at them; it was clear that he both did not know what the words meant nor did he understand the sarcasm in their voices. But he was able to discern that it didn’t feel good.
As far as I know this is may be one of the first times he has been flat out mocked. Until now most of our parental comforting has involved illness, him hurting himself, discipline or kid play turned rough. For the first time his tears were brought about by a group intentionally being cruel and primarily through language.
I love kissing boo-boos. Boo-boos go away and the cause is usually clear even to a three-year-old. But holding him and trying to explain that sometimes people are just mean is very different and I don’t like it.
If you ever saw the movie Grand Canyon you might recall the scene where a BMW stalls in the wrong end of town. While waiting for his tow-truck, the BMW is spotted and surrounded by a number of gang members. Before anything can happen the tow-truck pulls up and the truck driver starts hooking up the the BMW. The tow-truck driver pulls the leader of the gang aside and says something like: “Hey man, the world isn’t supposed to be this way. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without asking you first. And that dude should be able to with with his car without you ripping’ him off. Everything is supposed to be different than what it is here.”
That’s how I felt watching my son’s confused tears bounce off his checks and splash on the sidewalk.