Kids are awesome. They are way smarter than most of us give them credit for. Everything they do is either hilarious or interesting. I was at the playground with the two children I babysit the other day, and this was brought home to me again when I witnessed this little drama unfolding before my eyes.
The boy was about ten years old, and he was a little different from the other children. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but something about him was just not the same. He was a little slow, and his face bore traces of the lonely and resentful expression of a child that is never quite understood. He liked to shout at the others, and the small ones were afraid of him (with the exception of the two-year-old girl I babysit, who treated him with queenly indifference). I had to tell him off, myself, for yelling at and frightening my small charges. He acted rashly, however, when he scared a little four-year-old girl. She ran off, crying, to seek solace from her older sister and her three friends.
Well, I could have told him he’d made a mistake.
The little girl’s sister, a small, wiry child of about six years, immediately took action. With a brief preliminary shriek of, “You scared my sister!” she lunged wrathfully toward the boy and dealt him a well-aimed blow on the arm. For a moment, the boy was aware of the fact that he outweighed this girl by about forty pounds, and he gamely withstood her furious assault, but her relentless energy proved too much for him and he fled, churning up the mulch underneath his pounding feet.
But the tiny avenger was not about to let her enemy escape justice. She pursued him through the playground, shouting fiercely, “You scared her! You scared my sister! She’s only four!” It ended up that the boy scrambled up twelve feet of stairs and ladders and bridges to perch himself at the mouth of the slide, and the girl and one of her friends lay in wait at the bottom to wreak a terrible vengeance upon him when he emerged. The girl shouted her message up the slide, the tunnel amplifying her voice, making it echo and sound much more impressive than it really was: “You can be as mean as you want, but don’t scare my sister!”
Eventually, and probably against his own better judgment, he did come down the slide, and the girl and her ally smacked him unmercifully several times before he could escape and dart away to the safety of a large statue of a bison. Having made her point, the six-year-old directed a scathing glare at her little sister’s antagonist and flounced off to attend to her own amusements.
And all the time I watched. I felt for the unfortunate boy and had half a mind to intervene myself and rescue him from his inexorable pursuer, but at the same time, I was one hundred percent behind the little girl. That unthinking, passionate protective instinct, that solid conviction that nobody was going to hurt her sister if she had anything to say about it; I love that. I love watching the pact brothers and sisters make with each other, that unspoken promise of watching one another’s backs. Nobody messes with my family but me. What other social group has that kind of bond? That’s family right there. Awesome. You hold on to that protective instinct, kid. Don’t stop standing up to people who are twice your size.