I'm saying things like never ever, would I ever be mad. And you can tell me anything in the whole wide world and it won't change how I feel about you. I'm saying these things, and reaching for her hand, and choking back my own tears because as quickly as she's saying those words, I'm watching the shadow of innocence disappear on the horizon behind us.
I'm explaining things to her that I haven't had to explain yet. I'm telling her things today that are breaking her heart and I feel like I'm patching holes with bubblegum on a breaking dam inside of her and I realize this is why she needs Jesus.
And don't even mean this in the, "Jesus takes it all away and makes it better" sort of way. I mean that she needs Him in the same way I need a shelter when the storms really start to rock my heart. I need something immoveable, unshakeable. I need the voice that shouts at those waves. And I can't be that voice to her, because mine is still shaking.
I can try a million times every day to be her savior, but the truth is, I can't be. And maybe somewhere deep down, admitting that is the actually the saddest and hardest thing to do. I gave birth to her. I held her tiny hand as it curled around my fingers. I kissed her nose and told her that inside her is a song and I will always be listening. I'm the one cooling her forehead on feverish nights; I'm the one dropping an extra marshmallow into her hot chocolate on chilly fall afternoons. I'm raising her, training her, teaching her, holding her, hugging her, but I cannot save her. I cannot rescue and fix her heart. And this perhaps is breaking my heart even more. Once again, I realize that even in parenting, one of the greatest gifts, a lesson I have to learn is less of me. Less of me. Less of me.
I remember my pastor from years ago who said that "parenting is a series of painful releasings", and I feel it when I'm relinquishing her pain to her Heavenly Father and asking why does she have to feel the weight of so many things? Why do children have to know pain? Why do the young ones have to come face to face with things that want to steal, kill and destroy them? Why the littles? Why the tiny ones?
I'm scrolling through my phone — Twitter, Facebook, news feeds — and oh the stories. Mothers losing babies, fathers losing the fight to be the hero, true headlines where evil wins, and I'm feeling all sorts of empty.
A boy recently made advances toward my daughter, and she felt helpless. She felt like she had no voice. She was scared to speak up and shame followed close behind as she wondered where to turn.
I hear people say rape culture, and something inside of me recoils because I think, "No, surely we're not all that bad, are we?" I want to believe and hope for all the beauty and all the best ... until I see my four-year-old shamed by another, and she runs to my arms because there is no other safe place to run. Because we're told "boys will be boys", people laugh and say it's cute and "he'll grow out of it", while a young girl wonders if she's the one who was wrong all along. She's asking me why a mean boy also wants to be her boyfriend and why he accosts her daily with sexual requests and now she's afraid by speaking up, she'll be the one get in trouble, get a wrist slap, be told that it's part of growing up. And she runs to me in tears with a long list of fears inside her tiny world.
And it all feels like quicksand. I'm not an alarmist, I'm not a bell-ringer. I'm not going to burn people at the stake or demand reform in household traditions. But I feel like I've brushed up again against the shattering of a broken world and the real need for a real Hero.
I'm watching her speed down the sidewalk, her bicycle picking up speed, her pace quickening and her voice caught up in a shriek of joy. The neighbor asks me how she likes school and I mention that I've pulled her out and we're homeschooling, and she says "Oh what a shame," and before I break into a run to catch my carefree child, I smile and shake my head, "We're good, actually. Really, really good."