On the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer game yesterday, three young boys were playing a game of “Star Wars.” I don’t know exactly what the game involved, but one of them had a flashlight and there was some mention of “protecting” people. “You go protect your mom,” one said to another, maybe five years old. Then, the one who issued the order, who was about six, brought the other boy to meet his own mother. “This is my friend, Mom,” he said. Very cute. Very nice.

A third child tagged along. He was no more than four, with a blond crew cut and shirt that spelled something about an all-star team.

“You can protect your mom, too,” the older one told him.

“My mom’s not here,” the little one said.

“Okay. Protect your dad.”

“I don’t have a dad,” he said, as if he was describing a shoelace. My first thought was that the man died. Then I wondered who brought him to the game. “He’s in jail,” the child said.

The other kid didn’t ask what the man did to be sent to jail. I would have thought a six year old would ask. I wondered why the boy thought his dad was dead, when he was living. Maybe he did something terrible, and the mom told her son that his dad was dead. Maybe he was, in fact, dead, or died in jail, and the four year old got his facts wrong. It was all very disturbing, to me, anyway. The boy didn’t seem distressed, at least, not yesterday. They didn’t figure out who the child was going to protect, so he just ran along side the older one, the leader’s assistant. He was fortunate to have found a good leader, I thought. 

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