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I went to a local festival yesterday
The children’s section was full of rides
Jumping houses, rock-climbing walls
And all sorts of dizzy-inducing contraptions

There were art booths where they could make sand art bottles
Decorate a pumpkin
Shoot marshmallows out of a pipe gun (popular purchase item)
Rubber band guns
Carved wooden swords and knives with sheaths

Many of the children had their faces painted
In delightful artistic designs of butterflies, cats, dogs
I paused to comment how beautiful one of the
Designs was on one little girl who was with her father
She jumped at my speaking to her
Looked ready to run and shrunk in fear
She looked at me and said nothing
Her father pushed her along away from me
In a hurry

Hoping this was an aberration, the next child I saw
Was decorating a pumpkin
All I said was, “That’s a great looking pumpkin you’re doing.”
He looked at me – stared and went back to work, but moved away
Down the table, his face puzzled and guarded.

My husband said, “Guess there’s no speaking to children anymore.”
I know what rules parents have for their children
I support having your children aware

I felt weird all day – just for having spoken to children
I didn’t know – what have we done?
Are we managing our children’s world to be so limited
As to have them be afraid all the time in a social setting?
To manage who they interact with, manage their play
Under the guise of protection?
Who do we end up with? Fearful adults?

I don’t have any answers. It was just unsettling.

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