Robb played with them for endless hours in the pool: throwing, tossing, splashing, playing shark, jumping, catching, playing, playing, playing.
When we go to the pool, they look for someone to do the same. They are drawn to dads, fathers and sons who are splashing and playing - especially dads who are big and strong, shaped like the daddy they remember.
This worries me even as I watch, as a blend of Momma Bear, Mother Hen, and Lady Hawk.
On a small scale, what if they're being pests? I know how it is to really want to play with just my child(ren) but to have a lingering child wanting to join in the fun. What if this father/son don't want to add to their duo?
On a grander scale, how can they know what is safe? How can they know who is safe? What if these men aren't dads? What if they are deceived? What if I am deceived? They seem safe; are they safe?
Truly ever safe?
Their lives are carefully filled with men we know - family, friends, trusted adults who offer the masculine attention and modeling they need.
Still, they are hungry, even in their innocence.
Tears sting my eyes behind my sunglasses. Please, God, give them a hedge of protection. I can't do this alone. I can't.
As I think and pray, I watch a young lifeguard make joyful eye contact with Tyler. She lights up. "Hey, buddy! Hey, Ty! Where's your brother? Oh, there he is!"
Tyler leaps out of the water to hug her waist. Tuck isn't far behind. They know her. They come to this pool each week on a playdate with a dear friend, so I may maintain regular sessions with my counselor. This lifeguard has taken personal responsibility for the safety of my children under her care in the water.
She remembers their dad. She remembers how he played with them. She remembers when our family came to swim, as recently as December.
I introduce myself; it is a curious thing to meet someone who knows my children so well.
"It is so good to finally meet you! Oh, my, I have to tell you: I am so in love with these little boys. I intentionally work on Mondays so I can be here when they swim. We watch them so carefully to make sure they're safe. The whole lifeguard staff knows them - we call them our angels."
Oh, my new friend. I believe you are the angel. Perhaps the guardian kind.
Thank you, Lord,
for placing this hedge around them,
the one I have begged you for.
Thank you for caring for them,
even as I watch and worry;
thank you for caring for them,
even as I cannot see.
Thank you for angels and servants
whom you have placed in their path,
to guide and protect, to keep them safe.
Thank you that I am not alone.