I stepped over to my side yard swing, sighed deep, and sat down in the evening sunshine. The air was warm and fragrant with late spring blooms, and the neighbor kids were giggling on the other side of the fence.
“This is my mud cupcake,” said the toddler sister. “See? See? See my mud cupcake?”
I love the sound of children playing nearby. I even like the cacophony of the school playground behind me. I feel like all is well with the world when I hear the sound of children working out what is fair, fighting over a stick, and pausing to look at a spider.
The older sister came to enjoy the glorious mud cupcake and even drew it close to her lips to convince her sister she would surely eat it.
Then came the boys from down the road. I knew this sibling duo were front-yard friends, with a well-rehearsed banter. First they poked at the mud cupcakes, then they laughed at the little girl, and flung their pastries into the air. They jumped on their tough-boy bikes, turned their backs on the sisters and blew raspberries of disdain into the wind.
The older sister ran in the tall grass after them, yelling, “You’re not even nice. I’m not going to be your friend anymore!” She held her hand on her hip and pointed her finger after them. “Don’t come back here.”
“Yeah,” said the toddler sister, imitating her sister’s pose.
I misheard, because even though that word is on its way to normalization, I know it’s not often heard on the lips of toddlers. My uncertainty barely had time to hang in the air like a confused little bubble before the dainty toddler popped it.
“I’m gonna tell him fuck you when he comes back. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.”
I glanced away from my reading out of an unstoppable curiosity about the mother’s whereabouts. She was ten feet away, hand running through her hair whimsically, mouth hanging stupidly open while she stared down at her phone oblivious to her child’s words.
“Fuck you. Fuck you. FUCK YOU!”
I remembered the night before that I heard the mother yelling at the father, loud bangings coming from the kitchen, as the yelling grew angrier and more frightening. Somewhere out another nearby window a baby cried.
I looked at the blond-haired fairy of a child and my mind flashed to some of the marriage clients I see. They struggle to fight fair. Their feelings are so raw and painful. Sometimes you can trace a marriage’s struggle back to that one time when the spouse felt so unloved or betrayed. But in some marriages I get the sad feeling that the anger is so deep in the core of the person I may not be able to find its roots. I stood looking at this little girl, imagining her broken marriage in 2050.
Still she was repeating her expletive while her sundress swayed in the wind and she twirled dancing with a stick. Such a perfect little creature, so healthy and beautiful, and even with these words pouring forth, a heart of hope. Everything about her was so sweet and charming and pure. Except these terrible ways of relating she was learning from mom and dad. I felt so sad watching all that pure hope trickle out of her.
There is something so unnaturally sad about it. This is not the way children are supposed to be. Everything in me cries out that something here needs to be made right. And I realized in that moment that this is exactly how God feels about me.