Last night, as per our usual bedtime routine, I asked the Red Head how her day had been. She answered that it was fine as I made sure her covers were straight and she had her teddy bear. The Red Head spoke about school and art class. She described the crafts she made that day and touched on her apprehension over performing in the upcoming Christmas concert at school. Then she got quiet.
"What's wrong, baby?" I asked.
"Momma.....um, what's rape?"
I paused for a moment. I tried to gather my heart up out of my toes. For the first time in a quite a long time, I looked at my oldest child.
I mean really looked at her.
Wasn't it just yesterday that she was crawling around the livingroom? Wasn't I just showing her how to walk......it wasn't that long ago that I taught her to tie her shoes. Right? Where does the time go?
And when do they start to lose their innocence?
I cleared my throat. I try to answer all her questions as honestly as I can. But, as a mother, it is my job to keep the world out there. In my house, in the safety of my arms, I keep the world from intruding and bringing with it all the ugliness that it contains. Yet, at the same time, it is also my job to teach about the ugliness. To warn her against the evils of society.
I do the basics. I teach my children not to talk to strangers. I teach them not to recieve candy or hugs from people they do not know. It's not always easy. Old women will approach the Red Head about her hair and tell her how pretty she is. They try to hug the three-year-old because he is just too adorable to pass up. People have forgotten the golden rule when out in public. They make it difficult to instruct our young ones about keeping to the ones they know. What's worse is that sometimes it's the ones you know that hurt you the worse.
So, I answered her question. As simple as possible, I explained what one of the ugliest acts of violence was. I watched her as her eyes got big and she pulled the covers to her. I waited, patiently, as she sucked in her breath and then analyzed the information I had given her.
Finally, she asked, "Why would someone do that?'
"For pure meaness." I explained. She is too young to understand about control and power. She is too young to comprehend domination. But, she undertsands 'meaness'.
The Red Head absorbed all the information I had given her. She bolted upright out of the bed and wrapped her little arms around my neck. I nuzzled her and told her how much I loved her. I inhaled her scent. I cherished this beautiful creature that God saw fit to bless me with.
"Will that ever happen to me?"
"More than likely not." I answered her. "But, that is why I tell you not to hug on people that you don't know that well. That's why it's important not to talk to strangers. I tell you these things to protect you. I don't ever want to see you get hurt. Ok?"
She nodded quickly. Laying back down, she explained she had heard on the news about a woman getting rapped somewhere far from here. I nodded and made a mental note not to run the news anymore.
Kissing her on the forehead, I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to know before I turned her light out.
"Have you ever been raped?"
I took that opportunity to lie to her. I told her no.