Preserving Innocence with a Slice of Pepperoni

We turn on the television or glance at the newspaper in Honduras, and we are immediately confronted with violence. Although we have been here for four and a half years now, I am still shocked by some of the images I see on a daily basis. In this country, there are no laws about displaying pictures or video of the dead, still lying in their own blood. When we pass fatal accidents on the road, there is no rush to cover up the bodies with a sheet as there is in the States. We are constantly bombarded by haunting images of the victims of third-world violence.

After Claire was born, I began to realize the impact these images could have on her. When I see a beaten, naked alcoholic staggering down the road, I quickly try to point out the birds on the power line or the cows in the field. We don’t turn on Honduran news when Claire is in the room—it is simply too graphic. Last week, we learned that someone we know (I am not allowed to give his identity for safety reasons) has been kidnapped; his release is still in negotiation. I know we won’t be able to shelter Claire forever; this is just life in Honduras. But I am very determined to preserve her innocence as long as I can.

Childhood innocence is a precious gift that no one gets twice. Claire will certainly face “the real world” at some point, but for now, she still lives in a world of make-believe. She sets out her Cinderella dress-up gown each night “so the mice can come clean and sew it.” We make up stories about Gary the Gecko that lives above the air-conditioning unit in her room and comes out to play with her toys as soon as she leaves.

A couple of weeks ago we arrived home late from an unexpected call. It was nearly bedtime, but we had not yet eaten supper. As I hurriedly made sandwiches for dinner, I heard a slightly whiny voice proclaim, “But I don’t WANT sandwiches for supper!”

My impatient response was: “Well, when you start making your own supper, you can decide what to have!” The rule in our house is “If you don’t eat what Momma fixes, you don’t eat at all,” and I was sticking by my guns.

However, my heart softened a few moments later when I heard a little clatter and found Claire filling up a pot with water from the dispenser. “What are you doing, sweetie?”

“I’m making pizza!” she declared, her eyes brimming with excitement. She carefully placed the pot of water on the stove and informed me that it would be ready “in just a few minutes.” Then she headed off to the living room to play.

I showed Robbie what she had been up to, and he grinned, “You should let her think she really made something.” As luck would have it, I happened to have a few slices of leftover pizza in the fridge. I quickly warmed one up in the microwave, dumped the water from the pot into the sink, and replaced it with the slice of pepperoni. I scooted her kitchen stool in front of her “creation” in preparation for her return.

Her satisfaction at the finished pizza was well worth breaking the rules for once! She put the slice onto her plate and headed to the table to proudly enjoy the supper “she made.”

Let’s not be too quick to let our children leave the world of make-believe and charge full-steam ahead toward reality. There is something beautiful about these early years of wonder that can never be regained. We’ve decided to relish every moment!

Now you’ll have to excuse me. Claire says Gary the Gecko has put in an order for some graham crackers and milk—his favorite snack (and hers, too!).
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