Monday, July 18, 2011

Candy Land

My daughter received Candy Land for her third birthday. When we started to play, I noticed how much the game mimicked real life.

You chose a symbol the identifies you the most. If it is taken, you have to go with your second or third choice. You start out side by side with your peers, but quickly go ahead at different speeds. You focus and aim to a finish line, and get closer and closer to achieving your goal. On the way, you may pull a card, bad luck of the draw, that sends you back a few steps, or even worse back to the beginning again. You see your friends closer to the finish line and feel lonely on the front lines, but have to remind yourself that it is just a game, and it will play out differently next time.

Recently, there has been a lot in the news about tragic stories involving children. Last week, I struggled with myself to turn off the Jaycee Duggard story before I went to sleep. There was a strange feeling I had never felt burning in the pit of my stomach as I watched her speak. I felt it again a few days ago when I read about Leibby Kletzky, the eight year old who was murdered when he lost his way walking home, and again when I heard of a small child being struck by a car at the Downtown LA Art Walk just this week. The list goes on and on. Horror and terror strike. Things happen that put so much fear into the minds of parents that million dollar industries thrive simply to quell debilitating fears. Nanny cams, toddler leashes and even microchips implanted into children's ears (the last of which my husband is particularly fond of).

There is a middle ground. We don't live in forests full of bears, but we do live in a big city where certain dangers that exist. It needs to be put into check at some point though. What is that point though? When am I as a parent being too overprotective and inflicting my fears to her. There should be a sense of freedom that she can have as she gets older. We just have to, as parents, judge how far the distance between us can go before we are out of our comfort zones. When I was sixteen, I was followed by a scary looking man who was driving up on the sidewalk groping himself as I ran as fast as I could. I ran up to a front door of a house and he drove away. I will never forget how fast my heart was beating. I can't imagine how badly my parents slept that night. I didn't get his license plate and I regret that, but I am always grateful that I got away safely.

When I think about my childhood, my friends and my family, we all had experiences that we went through that were trying, frightening, or difficult. No one gets a free ride to the castle. We all have to go backwards, lose chances, or sometimes just wait. Everyone knows someone who stops playing the game but most of us, despite how long it takes, get the candy in the end.

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