I have so much on my mind lately where my kids are concerned. They start kindergarten in 3 weeks. Three. Weeks. I don't know where the past 5 years have gone. How do I protect them once they are no longer in my care for 8 hours a day? How do I ensure that they can take care of themselves? How do I make sure no one else harms them, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally?
Lately, a girl in the neighborhood has started showing up on our doorstep to play with "the little kids." I have never heard her call them by their names. I don't know if she even KNOWS their names. Chloe is 6 years old, and rides her bike throughout the neighborhood by herself (without a helmet), all the time. Her house is on the edge of a busy street. My first experience with her was about a month ago, when she showed up at another neighbor's house, who invited those of us in the cul de sac over to make s'mores in the firepit in her driveway. Chloe was there, riding her bike and running around the yard with all the other kids, who are great, sweet kids. The next thing I knew, Scarlett came running to me, crying because Chloe had pushed her down. Even though she is just a year older than my kids, she easily looks 2 or 3 years older - she's a big kid. So. My first impression is of a big kid who pushed my kid down and hurt her. Since I didn't see her do it, I didn't say anything; just watched her. She was running, shoving other kids as she ran. Still I didn't say anything.
I didn't see her again after that night until this week, when she showed up at my door wanting to play, then basically pushed her way in. The kids went into the backyard and jumped on the trampoline. Chloe is clearly used to having her way, and when I asked if she had brothers or sisters, she said no. Okay. No siblings, and clearly no parents who care enough to stop her from going into someone's home they don't know. At that time, I wouldn't have known her parents if they showed up on my doorstep. Which they haven't.
Chloe showed up the next day - night really - at 8 p.m., when we were getting the kids ready for bed. Wanted to play. We told her it was too late. She argued. We sent her home. She showed up earlier the next day and wanted to play again. Asked if the kids could come to her house. I said no. She persisted, so I said, "No - I don't know your parents, and they're not playing at your house until I meet them." She replied, "My mom's name is Katie." "Okay - I replied - I know her name, but I don't know her, and they are not coming over." I have to admit, I googled her mom, and found her in a court system website in Missouri where she had apparently in the past refused a breathalyzer test. My kids DEFINITELY weren't going to her house.
I am so conflicted about Chloe. I truly feel bad because she doesn't appear to have an adult who is looking out for her well-being. On the other side, I had an immediate dislike of her because of my first impression, coupled with the fact that she is so totally bossy around my kids. Still. I am searching for compassion, because I know she will show up again on my doorstep. I can be that adult who possibly sets a good example for her, or I can write her off and refuse to let my kids play with her. At this point, I am willing to give her another chance.
Tom and I talked this weekend about it. He feels the same way I do. I know I have to figure out a way to deal with this, because in 3 weeks, a good part of my control over who my kids choose as their friends is officially out of my hands. I have to resolve that we are teaching them as best we can to be kind, to be compassionate, but to be wary and take care of THEMSELVES too.
Yesterday, I got up early and ran down to the lake. I sat at the beach and meditated, watching the mist roll across the water. I breathed in, and with each exhale, mentally tried to blow those worries in my mind across the lake with the mist.
I know there are no assurances in life, but what I do know is that I can choose to spend my time worrying about what MIGHT be, or hold my kids close now. I can breathe them in and cover them with kisses and make sure they know I love them. I can try to let the small things go and live in this moment, because the one assurance I do have is that this moment, this precious moment, is fleeting.
Tunic: Old Navy
Shoes: Jessica Simpson
Necklace: TJ Maxx