We've lived in our present city for eight years. It's very urban, and very depressed. It was once a pleasant family neighborhood, but now it's somewhat dangerous. When visitors come, they look at our little block and exclaim at what a nice place it is. Actually, two blocks down are several boarded-up crack houses. Two blocks in another direction bring you to the site of a summertime gang murder. Two blocks up is the home of friends of ours in their eighties, recent victims of a robbery and attempted rape.
When we moved here, Teen and Tween were much younger. Tween was barely out of toddlerhood, and Teen was a little grammar school age girl. I spent a lot of time wishing we didn't live here, and more time dreaming of moving back. It took years to reconcile myself to the fact that we were here to stay. The remaining time has been spent in making my place here.
It never occurred to me that my kids were growing up here, though. Teen remembers our old home, but only faintly. Tween says he remembers, but his "memories" are mixed up stories that he's heard us tell over the years. Toddler, of course, has no recollection of our home from eight years ago.
In my mind, my kids grew up in a quiet, rural area of dairy farms and corn crops. They ran free in a big back yard with woods and trails, geese and deer. They enjoyed nights of bright stars and crickets. My mind tells me that I have country children who have been transplanted temporarily to the city.
The reality is different, of course. Actually, my kids have spent most of their lives in the city. They are city kids who had a brief, early stint in the country.
Some of you are probably thinking that it's about time I realized this. I've watched them grow up, after all. I've raised them to be careful: Don't answer the door or the phone unless you're expecting a visitor or a call. Come inside when people you don't know approach the house. After a brick was thrown through our front window, we bought special glass and rehearsed emergency procedures. When gangs roam the streets in the summer, we lock the doors and windows and turn on fans so the kids won't overhear.
Maybe the reality was too far from my dream for them, and I overlooked what was happening in front of my eyes.
I tell them all the time that God's plan for them is not always evident, but that He knows what He's doing. I tell them that hard things make strong people, and that if they are unjustly treated, they can take their complaint directly to Him and He will make it right. And that right doesn't always look right to us, but that is what trust is. I know that all these things are true. I have to admit, though, that it's easier to live them for myself than to watch my kids live them.