Amid the commotion of our family’s ordinary daily lives, I do pay some attention to the news. The violence in Egypt this week is particularly heartbreaking to observe. The rows of bodies — mostly young men — waiting and waiting in the Cairo heat for a proper burial…that image, along with the one of an elderly woman trying to stop a bulldozer from plowing over an injured young man…those images have lingered in my mind all day today. Meanwhile, there are a thousand tasks to attend to, toys and crumbs and, who-am-I-kidding, whole meals to pick up off the floor as we scurry about just trying to keep up with laundry and dishes and stay thirty seconds ahead of our energetic, feisty toddler.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to think carefully, at length and without interruption, about the whole big decision to bring a child into this broken world, but I do still think about it now-and-then. What is this place where there are simultaneously so many countless joys and delights and equally countless ways to be hurt and to hurt each other? Someday before too too long, she will start noticing things, she will start asking questions. There is so much pain in this world, so many ways that people are brutal to each other, often right in front of our eyes.
At one of our regular museum play areas this week, I spent some time observing the way the kids a few years older than our Little Bean interacted with her. I noticed that most of them, regardless of race or age, seemed threatened by her, this baby who they assumed was going to “knock down [their] tower,” “get in [my] way,” or “play with [my(!)] toy.” One little girl, probably 4 years old or so, kept moving to sit in the little chair that our Bean was clearly interested in sitting in, and then occupying it for as long as Bean was in the vicinity. I could only surmise that something about power was going on here. Here was a baby that either reminded some of these kids of a younger sibling who’d bothered them in the past, or who was clearly a less powerful being that they could exert their power over (or both). It was disconcerting to watch. Is this how we instinctively are with each other? I’ve noticed that older kids — 9, 10, 11 years old and older — seem to “get over” this competition-with-the-baby thing and are interested in playing with her at her level, so I’m relieved to see that. But I continue to mull on what it means to be a Little Person in this world, and what we are letting our children experience when we don’t pay attention.