“Oh, NO, no, no, no! Maggie Ann! What the heck?!” To my complete horror, I watched my eldest daughter, as in super slow motion, walk toward our home from a couple of houses down. She was holding her clothes in one arm. She was stark naked?! Why? What on earth? I closed my eyes, opening them again in hopes that the scene had changed. Nope. I stood at my kitchen sink, soapy water running down my arms as I raised my hands up to grasp the cupboards on either side of the sink. I waited for an eternity, probably forgetting to breathe, as I mentally clothed her. As soon as she was through the gate, I poked my head out our front door, through gritted teeth I hissed “Maggie Ann, get your ass in here, NOW!”
She came through the door nonchalantly, “Hi, mama. Matthew’s mom says I can’t swim in their pool without clothes. I can come back tomorrow, but I have to have a swim suit on.” As if I hadn’t heard her, I screeched, “Why are you naked?! Put clothes on! Why would you be walking around the neighborhood naked? You’re carrying your clothes! Put them on!” “They were having a pool party, and I wanted to swim with the other kids.” She looked at me like I was the one who was irrational in this picture. “I know. I’m going back tomorrow with my swimsuit on.” Holy shit! The ringing in my ears began to subside. “This is not about you swimming. You cannot be naked outside of your bedroom or our bathroom! I’m going to paddle your butt. Get over here.” She darted away. Great. I didn’t want to chase her. I wanted her to go back in time and NOT BE NAKED in our neighbor’s pool!
Mortified, I called Matthew’s mom. “Hi, huh, huh. Uh, this is Maggie’s mom. Wow, am I sorry that happened. I don’t know what came over her. She knows it’s not OK to be naked like that. I can’t believe that happened.” As if I needed her to believe that we had taught her better. Clearly we hadn’t taught her this. I truthfully had never told her specifically not to take her clothes off outside in the open and get into the neighbors swimming pool because she wanted to go swimming. I suppose there were certain things that I expected a five year old to know without being told. This now seemed ridiculous, and suddenly I felt like I was the crazy one.
Oh my gosh, we’re trailer trash! OK, that’s it. I need to clean this whole place. Organize everything. These kids are going to be on a schedule from now on. We are going to church every Sunday. Maggie and Serrah are going to Super Saturday at First Assemblies tomorrow!
Looking back, I know that I need not have panicked so dramatically. Maggie was a precocious child. She was curious, enthusiastic, and in love with life. That’s awesome. She didn’t have a lot of fear, and she certainly wasn’t timid. The pastor of our church stopped in to see us. Maggie was thrilled to have a visitor. She was good in that she sat quietly while the grown ups were talking. Yet when the pastor commented on what a lovely wedding photo we had on display, she proudly announced, “I was at my mommy and daddy’s wedding. I was right there in my mommy’s tummy.” He was not amused. In fact, he wasn’t even gracious about that. I shouldn’t have felt the need to apologize for our life, our marriage, her existence. “Can I offer you another cup of coffee,” I was inviting him to either accept us or leave. He declined the coffee and left. Looking back, all I can say is “Bravo, Maggie,” and how sad for that pastor.
Nothing fazed her. One Sunday afternoon when her dad and I were “going over finances,” and not to be disturbed, Maggie walked in on us. I was SO concerned for her. We had made sure that all of the kids were napping. Oh my goodness, she would be scarred for life. I crept out to the kitchen where she stood, looking into the fridge. She was five-years old. I couldn’t imagine what was going through her mind. Had she understood what she saw. Of course, I also was prepared to be inundated with crazy questions from her. I knelt down and asked, “Are you O.K.?” She simply looked at me and smiled, “I saw you and daddy getting married.” “Oh, well, yeah,” I hugged her, and went to report back to a nervous and embarrassed Lyle. “She’s fine.” When I told him what she had said, we laughed until tears were streaming. “Leave it to Maggie. That little shit,” he shook his head in wonder at his eldest child. Those words have been repeated many times and in many situations, fondly by both of us in the moment, and later, in the reminiscing of them.
There were other more serious moments when her curiosity and lack of fear caused us to become prematurely gray. Naptime, age five and three, Maggie and Serrah went down with no argument. Why ask “why?” After the dishes were done and the place was tidied, I took my book and went outside. The window of opportunity was small, as the twins would only nap for an hour at the most. I had a good twenty minutes before they would stir from the slumber that they had begrudgingly fallen into after ten minutes of fuss. I parked myself on the swing right outside their bedroom window, and had gotten a paragraph in when a mom from down the street appeared with Maggie and Serrah. It didn’t register right away. They were napping inside like angels. How could they be standing before me in the company of this angry mom who clearly was chomping at the bit to give me a piece of her mind. “They were coming back from Mac’s (the hardware store three blocks away).” “What? They were napping,” I was incredulous. “How old is this one anyway?” she indicated to Serrah. “She’s three,” I was still reeling from the shock. “What are they doing running all over the place? They’re not old enough to go to a store by themselves. That’s a busy street. Do you realize how dangerous that is?” Oookay. The piece of mind had been delivered. She didn’t hear me say that, to my knowledge they were napping safely in our home. Clearly they had snuck out. No, I did not think it was safe or O.K. I hadn’t allowed it. So, I did what I do, gave a smart-ass reply, “I didn’t send them there. Why did you go to Mac’s?” I turned to my girls. Serrah was quick to respond, “We wanted popcorn.” “Oh. Well, I guess they were hungry,” I shrugged at angry mom and ushered my wayward kiddos inside, where my nonchalance turned into my own version of angry mom. “That is NOT safe. How on earth did you get out the door?” “We didn’t,” Maggie looked me right in they eye. Well, there was only one other way out of their room. Those little turds had gone out their bedroom window! “You have got to be kidding me. Don’t you EVER go off without Daddy or I knowing first. I delivered spankings to both of them.
How do we instill fear into kids. They need to be aware of real danger. We’ve told them that Jesus is always with them, and will always protect them. The only thing that we could do was set up rules that would keep them safe. That was our job. They didn’t have to understand all of them, but they would have to trust and obey us. This parenting gig was getting more complicated. All I can say is that there were surely leagues of angels assigned to watching over and keeping those little girls safe from calamity each day.