Thursday, June 20, 2013

Keeping Them Safe

When my big girl was little, about six or seven years old, she went with her brothers and her father to watch Simchas Beis Hashoeva in Crown Heights. I stayed home, with whoever was the baby at the time, to prepare for Yom Tov.

It was crowded and hard for little ones to see. So my big girl and one of my boys climbed up one of the police barricades that lined the street. She loves music - she sang before she talked - and she was thoroughly enjoying herself.

I don't remember the details - it was so long ago. There probably weren't very many details. My big girl was standing on the barricade, when she felt someone touch her - inappropriately. She turned around, but didn't see who it was, and assumed she imagined it or that someone brushed against her by mistake. She turned back to watch the dancing, and someone touched her again. Again, when she turned around, she couldn't see who it was, and she turned back. When it happened a third time, she climbed down and went to stand near my husband.

She didn't think to say anything about it until they were driving home, and then she just mentioned it casually. It didn't seem to be a big deal to her.

My normally mild mannered husband was livid. He wanted to turn around and go right back there and kill the guy who touched her. He didn't. He was still able to think clearly enough to realize there was no way he'd find him. And kill him.

My kids were so surprised at his reaction, they still talk about it sometimes. They couldn't understand it. In their minds, it was a tremendous overreaction. They still think he overreacted. All these years later, all those conversations about good touch and bad touch...about personal safety, all those stories they've heard over the years - they still don't fully get it.

My little boy loves seforim. He collects them, buys them whenever he has any money, and spends hours in the local seforim store. When his friend told him about the very large library of seforim in his shul, my son couldn't wait to check it out.

Last Shabbos afternoon, he headed out to the shul.

"Don't stay there if you're the only one there," I warned him. "Or if there's only one other person."

"Or two people," my husband added. "Come home if there are only two other people there,"

My big kids snickered. Here were their parents overreacting again.

"You'd think I was going to a dangerous place," my little boy laughed. "I'm going to shul."

They all laughed.

This summer, my little boy is going to camp for the first time. I'm worried. I always worried when I sent my kids to camp. Sure, I'll talk to him before he goes. It won't be the first time we've had that conversation. I've talked to him about all of this many times. As I have with all of my kids. But I really don't think he gets it. I don't think he can. I don't think any of them did, and I wonder to what extent they do - even now.

If they can't understand why I don't want my little boy alone in a quiet shul, how much do they really understand? If they think a father's anger at the person who touched his little girl is an overreaction, how much do they grasp? Do they really get it?

And if they don't get it, how safe are they? I can talk and explain and tell him everything I am supposed to, but will that protect my little boy? Will anything protect him? If he doesn't really grasp it...if he can't understand the safe is he?

I will do my part. I will talk to him. And I will overreact when I feel it is necessary. But it's not enough.

I am asking You, Hashem - begging You - please watch my little boy, and all the other sweet and innocent little boys and girls. Please protect them and keep them safe. I am sending my little boy away from home, away from my care, and I am entrusting him to You. Only You can keep him safe. Only You can protect him.

He is Your child - these are Your children. Don't let anyone harm them - please.