This year, I was more than happy to let other people help watch my children while I enjoyed adult conversation or entertaining games. I sadly wasn't able to take advantage of this opportunity as much as I wanted, since my 3 year old was very sick and definitely needed mommy-care. But in those few-and-far-between moments when he was well enough that I could hand him off, I did. Eagerly.
This is a scenario played out in many a home with many a parent, I am sure. And the only real problem with this wonderful childcare solution is that while loving, the family member with the bulls-eye on his back never feels completely responsible for the child. So, the child can potentially be passed from one family member to the other. Or, the child can simply be left to fend for himself.
There are those children who don't like fending for themselves, and so will find another playmate and/or comforter whenever they find themselves alone. But there are other children who find it perfectly acceptable to fend for themselves; in fact, they sometimes prefer it.
In our family gathering this past Thanksgiving, we had an opportunity to observe both. Or at least, we saw the aftermath. My 3 year old is very social and falls into the first category--he always wants someone around. So, once left alone without an adult, he found a playmate. Another four year old. Now, this four year olds character fits more aptly in the second category--he feels perfectly fine fending for himself.
We can only piece together the information of what truly happened during their time spent together based on the interesting insights they have, and, of course, the noticeable physical devastation that occurred. You see, where there had been a collection of untouched, large, home-grown pumpkins and squash, there were just remnants of home-grown pumpkins and squash. Some pieces were still fairly intact with only a few lines, as if someone had been attempting to draw faces into them. Others were truly marred, with holes so large that you could see straight into the innards of the thing itself. And sitting only a couple feet away from the orange and green mess, was a hatchet. It was innocently lying on the floor, a reminder that it was useless unless wielded by a person. From the accounts of those present (only my son and the other 4 year old boy), it was the four year old who wielded the hatchet. My son tells me that the boy was just making jack-o-lanterns. Now that is a boy who is perfectly content to be on his own.
I don't think this story will make me any less apt to hand my child off when I'm around a whole bunch of family. That's just too good a thing to pass up. Maybe, though, it will motivate me to check the surrounding area to make sure there are no sharp, dangerous materials hiding nearby.... We'll see. For now, all I can say is that this Thanksgiving, I had one more thing to be thankful for. Praise the Lord that it was only squash and pumpkins that were cut into: not anything, or anyONE, else!