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Children at Play

Children playing in Blue Lake

Children playing in Blue Lake

Yesterday I sat on the grass by a lake, watching the children play. Two girls covered a friend with sand, as she grinned up at them. Their hair gleamed in the sun, and their eyes sparkled just as brightly. Waist-deep in the lake, a group of preteen boys waged war with their water guns, laughing in glee. Other children splashed about or built sand castles at the water’s edge. They seemed so carefree and alive in the moment. Ah, to be a child again!

Farther out in the water the child I brought here splashed in the roped-off area between the shallow play area and the deep lake beyond. She, too, seemed carefree, and yet I knew better. Her swim area could have been a metaphor for her life, as she teetered between childhood and the challenging teen years. Soon she would start middle school in a new school, her fourth school in the past two years. She worried about it. Would the other kids tease her? Would she have to shower after P.E.? Would she make any friends?

When I think of my childhood, I remember lazy summer days reading on the grass, family card games, birdwatching in the backyard. Yet, if I think a little more, I can also remember fights with my brothers, anger at a friend who broke her word, fears of not fitting in. The idyllic moments of childhood are interspersed with fears and disappointments, not so very different from adulthood.

Perhaps the advantage children have is that they are able to forget the bad when in the midst of the good. They can fully experience the joy of a sunny day at the lake without the bittersweet ache that it gives me, knowing that September is here, and a chill hides at the edge of the sunshine. I don’t regret the perspective the years have given me, but I am happy for the children, too, as they bask in the joy of the moment. May this gift not be taken from them.

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