Innocence

As I watched the children laughing and playing, I had only theoretical knowledge of what was to come. They looked so innocent that the thought that they could be so cruel was preposterous. I knew my purpose, but to be there as it happened was simply terrifying.

Their games started simply, but just as the number of participants increased, so did the complexity and intensity of their activities. Before anyone else arrived, with only a pair of brothers present, Tag was an appropriate choice. The big brother tagged the little one and sprinted away from him, keeping his little brother from touching him. Under no circumstances would the big brother allow his little brother to win. This attitude would last until the little brother gave up, angry and frustrated with his tall adversary.

Two more children arrived, immediately joining the game of Tag in the same moment they converged in the backyard. The parents watched, now more concerned about the safety of each individual child, not wanting to report any injuries to the other parents at the end of the day. Though such injuries cannot truly be prevented, I was relieved that the parents were at least trying to minimalize them.

After half an hour, with the arrival of another child, Tag became obsolete, replaced by Capture the Flag. Because there were five children, the teams were imbalanced. Three children had the goal of capturing the flag that the other two were trying to defend. It seemed close enough to fair, at least from what I could see. The two defenders felt that this system was unfair. Accepting an invitation from one of the children, one of the more playful parents joined the game, defending the flag against all five of the children.

I was completely unsurprised when the parent used a little too much force in a shove, hurting the fragile child, for this to me, it seemed this always happened when an adult played with a child. Crying, the child cried and ran inside as his father followed in search of a bandage. After the initial shock, the other children continued playing Capture the Flag as if nothing had happened, completely numb to the cry of their injured friend.

About ten minutes of stalemate passed before the bruised child came back, bringing with him another child who had arrived. Deciding he was tired of Capture the Flag, the newly bandaged child announced that he wanted to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey. His mother produced a blindfold, wrapping it around the child’s eyes and whirling him in circles. She faced him the right direction and the other children laughed as he pierced the cheek of the donkey with a thumbtack.

All the other children stood side-by-side, providing them the capability of watching while remaining in a straight line. Each of them had a different way of expressing his excitement. Some giggled while others fidgeted; others yet danced while more clapped. Everyone was having a great time until one left to use the bathroom, coming back to find out that his turn had been skipped. Pouting, he crossed his arms and stuck out his lower lip in an attempt to attain pity. Even the parents, who were normally much more concerned with fairness, told him only to get back in line and wait until his next turn. The other children were all the worse, telling him to “just shut up,” and imitating his face, which was disfigured by sadness.

Only a few minutes later, when the child had finally calmed down, he felt newfound excitement, for he had pinned the tail on the donkey, and was even the first to be anatomically correct in his attempt. The other children, wanting to make him cry again, told him he had only gotten lucky and that anyone can pin the tail where it goes. The “lucky” child swung directly back from being ecstatic to depressed. The parents, irritated with his attitude, told him that if he didn’t stop whining, he’d be sent home. Still angry and tainted by pain, he quietly remained unhappy.

Pizza arrived by delivery, and after money and pizza changed hands, three more children arrived to participate in the games. As I watched them scarf down their food and immediately begin playing Tag again, I marveled at a child’s physical prowess. Despite their lack of strength and balance, they are among the liveliest things in the world.

The children were finishing the pizza and the parents called those who were playing Tag back to the table. One parent began slicing through thick layers of icing as they all sang. Another disappeared inside briefly, coming back with ice cream. As a prank, one of the children blew out the last candle before the intended child could. Convinced he wouldn’t be getting his wish, he was very upset, and told the offending child he never wanted to see him again. The father brought the bully inside and the mother explained to her child that by lighting all the candles and singing the song again, they could still grant him his wish.

One child began tearing at paper-covered boxes, retrieving toys of all sorts. Violently, he ripped open the boxes as quickly as he could, wanting to have his presents immediately. Again, the father disappeared inside, coming back out with a bicycle. The child was delighted, riding around on it with a goofy smile for at least 15 minutes.

This was when I knew my time was up. The parents handed every child plastic weapons and they approached me. Suspended from a tree by rope, I could do nothing to stop them. The child with the new bicycle was the first to begin, his anger at every other child bottled within, now capable of releasing the tension through a savage beating to an innocent bystander.

As they hit me repeatedly, I screamed inside of my head. For five or six minutes, I felt the agony of having a group punish me – but for what crime? Is it simply to feed their primal instinct, to give them the exhilarating feeling of killing a defenseless being? Or is it for possession of candy they wanted? These questions raced through my head, my mind’s desperate attempt to block the pain.

One child scored a lucky hit, breaking my side open. The sugar spilled from my body onto the ground, and the children left me to die in agony, caring only about their candy rather than the pain they caused to a helpless individual.
Crucified in the name of celebration. Of all options, somebody stuck me with this job. Though children are innocent, the things parents allow them to do make the children into terrible human beings as they grow older. In having no knowledge of good and evil, a child can do something terrible and elude guilt on the premise of ignorance.





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