Lately, we have been telling lots of stories at our house.
Stories about summer; about the first weeks of school and the drama that ensues; about the leaves that are changing; about our hopes and dreams...
even, the not-so-nice dreams.
Every child deals with fear. Even as an adult, our fears seem to multiply BECAUSE of our children. Will they get their feelings hurt? Will they fall off of the monkey bars at recess? The wills and what if's seem endless.
Yesterday evening, after dinner and showers, Isaac sat with me at our kitchen table. He, with a before bed snack of cereal and milk, and I with my hot tea (fighting a cold here...). The night was chilly, and you could hear the crickets shouting at us through the big, night cloaked windows behind us. Our conversation took off...
"Mom, guess what."
"I had a couple of dreams last night....and two bad ones."
"Oh, I'm sorry love. Sometimes those happen."
"Yeah....and here's what it was about. I came home from school and I looked in the kitchen...nothing there. I looked in the basement, nothing there. I looked in the bathroom, nothing there. I looked in the dining room, nothing there..." (To save you time, he went through every room of our house, including closets, and found nothing, until...) "I came to YOUR room and there was a big long tail and it had black eyes, and it was looking at me, and then...I ran down the hall..."
"Okay, that doesn't sound nice at all...what happened?"
"Well, I went back to see it because it just wanted to go outside, so I let it outside. It was just a big rhinoceros."
[end of first scary dream]
"Wow. So....you helped the rhino?"
"But THEN....but....then...but...in MY room there was a big giraffe."
If I could describe the way his eyes grew large as he talked, or the way his wet hair dripped onto his forehead and his spoon hung mid-bite from his mouth, I would. But it's not important.
The important part is how we are facing fear.
It was time for bed, and Dan, Ethan, and myself were standing at the bottom of the stairs. Isaac had to put his cereal bowl into the sink (this is something we taught the boys to do early on--just clean up after yourself as a good habit). He stood in the middle of the kitchen and looked at us, then his bowl on the table, then back at us. He ran toward us, panic on his face.
Dan calmly hugged him, "Buddy, you need to put your bowl away, please." Isaac was terrified. He had spooked himself after telling me his stories and his imagination was running just as wild as he runs on the playground. "Um...but, I'm scared. Can somebody close the door?" (We have a door that goes from the kitchen to our foyer, and the foyer was dark, the door open) Dan knelt down and took Isaac gently by the shoulders. Ethan and I stood beside them. "Buddy, it's important to face your fears. I know you're afraid, but there's nothing over there that can hurt you. The dark is the dark, and nothing more. We are all here and will protect you." Ethan chimes in, "Yeah, I'll protect you. And remember, God is always with you too, and he's bigger than anything." Isaac struggles for a few minutes, trying to get us to go with him, carry him, or just close the door.
Finally, we met halfway--I stood midway between the table and Isaac. "I'll stand here...see? I'm looking at the foyer and there is nothing. You can do it." Isaac slowly walked to my side, looked in the direction I was looking, and made his way to the table, carefully picking up his bowl and walking slowly with a smile and a giggle at his accomplishment. Our whole family cheered and gave him high-5's.
Why is this blog worthy? Because I know it's not the last time we will deal with the discomfort of fear. Learning how to handle it and teach Isaac what tools are necessary to combat fear is essential as he grows. Isaac's life has had an underlying theme in my own journey through life: Fear. His needs have challenged me in every area to look through that dark door of the unknown that might be keeping me from moving ahead, and to step bravely on and accomplish a goal--despite the looks, the judgment, the words, or the all-knowing advice of others.
In our home, we also practice prayer, and combating fear with TRUTH. We believe in Jesus, and also teach our children that He is an "ever present help in time of need." I love this passage of Hebrews 4 in The Message...
14-16 Now that we know what we have--Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God--let's not let it slip through our fingers. We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all--all but the sin. So, let's walk right up to him and get what he is ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.
That beady eyed, big bad giraffe of fear is always going to come around--it's debilitating presence an invisible crippler of hope. But we have something greater. And we are learning, constantly learning, how to take what he freely gives--help...the chance to try again, to face life head on, and to win.