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These Children Aren’t my Own

December 19, 2012

As a parent, one of the most disturbing things to come out of the Newtown shooting is the reminder that we really aren’t in control of our children.  School, a place that is supposed to be one of the safest places for children, right up there with church in my opinion, is no longer a safe haven.  Harm can come to my children at school, just as easily as at home, at the mall, or at a park.  There is no safe place.

We don’t like to think of the risks of parenting–we would rather not be faced with the reality that we can’t protect our children from everything.  That’s scary.

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Back when John was just 18 months old, I was taught dramatically that John was not mine.  All my children are on loan to me from God.  I am their surrogate parent, raising them because they are here and need human parents (not trying to say that my children are divine–just that like all of us, they are first children of God).  The fear of thinking your child may be gone, forever, doesn’t ever leave you.  Closing my eyes and thinking of our close call causes fear to sweep over me again.

We had gotten away for a weekend of family camp.  Family camp was a wonderful place–three nights and two days of other people cooking for us and planning activities for us to do.  There was a nice deep, swimming hole to swim in, complete with a zipline.  Canoes and kayaks were available to leisurely spend an afternoon.  Snacks were always set out and there was huge bouncy house to keep the kids entertained for hours.  There were crafts, bible studies, and an evening program every night.  Somehow, we were given on of the nicest cabins–two rooms (or was it three) that made it very comfortable for our family of four.  This was our second trip to family camp– pure bliss we thought.  A weekend together with no work and no cell phone service.  Bliss.

Saturday afternoon, we left John and Madeleine in with the camp staff in the children’s activity area (outside like everything else) so Curtis and I could enjoy some time together.  As we signed in John, we warned the staff, “Keep a close eye on this one, he’s a runner and disappears faster than you’d expect.”  I was hesitant because I know John—he’s fast and he’s rarely still. I was assured the people watching the kids were excellent and I had nothing to worry about. Off Curtis and I went, to enjoy time together and alone, while our kids happily played and bounced.

I picked Madeleine up after I was done swimming, but decided to change clothes before getting John. I went to get John and was told by the girl in charge, “We can’t find him.” I was terrified. Our camp area bordered on the Frio River–some of which was only 3 – 4 inches deep, other parts were over 12 feet deep. The river didn’t  move particularly fast, but it was deep. I knew John and had no doubt that the first place he would head was the river.

I went down to the riverbed, starting at the deep area and walking towards the shallow, looking for my son in the water.  Once upon a time, I had learned, look in the most dangerous spots first.  I rounded the bend and saw John standing in 3 inches of water in the Frio. Once I saw he was safe, I took off my shoes and went in to get him. He squealed with delight when he saw me and showed me the huge rock in his hand he was preparing to throw. He was soaking wet, indicating he probably fell down a few times in his trek to the middle of the river. Other than few scrapes from somehow navigating a 3 foot drop off a rock wall, he was just fine. He had no idea how terrified I was.

It’s been four years since I thought I had lost John.  It hasn’t been the last time I felt that fear, though none quite as acutely as that day.  Words still can’t describe the emotions that flood me as I think about that experience.  However, more than anything else, I’ve learned to be thankful every day for my children staying with me another day.

My children aren’t my own.  They are on loan and for each day I am given with them, I am thankful–even when they’re tired and throwing things at or talking disrespectfully to me.  DSCN0741

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