blog,  mental health,  parenting

Childhood and Our Worst Fears

Yesterday, Judah asked to watch a “smart movie” about hurricanes. 

A documentary is what he meant. 

So I found one and set him up on my phone. A while later he runs into my room crying.

“MOMMY! WATER GOT IN HOUSES AND TREES BLEW OVER!”

“I’m sorry buddy,” I said reaching for the phone. “You don’t have to watch it anymore.”

Judah jerked his hand back. “No! I want to!”

“But it makes you sad.”

“Yes. But it’s okay to be sad, right? You always say it’s okay to be sad. I want to keep watching so I can find out how to help save people. But can I watch it next to you?”

So he sat by me and watched the documentary a little while longer. He kept wiping tears from his eyes for various reasons. Some time later he asked me to find a “kid movie” about hurricanes. I found one with Bill Nye, and he’s watched it approximately 5 times since yesterday evening. 

He repeats this pattern often. Once, we watched a documentary at his cousin’s house where a baby bird was eaten by a bird of prey. Judah lost it and we had a long conversation about death on the way home. 

”When will you die, mommy?” 

“I don’t know. Probably not for a long time.”

“I don’t want you to die.”

“Everybody dies, baby.”

“Will I die?”

“Yes, probably not for a long time.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“I know.”

He sat quietly for the rest of the car ride home with silent tears dripping down his face. When we arrived, he simply wanted to hug and snuggle the rest of the evening. He told me he loved me and I told him the same. 

I have a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They are morbid, to say the least. In the story of Snow White, the Evil Queen in the end is made to dance in shoes of hot iron until she drops dead.

These were told to children.

In our modern western world, these horrific stories could hardly be thought of as fairy tales. Critics of Grimm’s stories argue that these fairy tales were told to children in order to teach moral lessons, like what lies in wait for the wicked, or to help them come to terms with their worst fears, like death. 

Although I don’t plan on reading Grimm’s stories to my children any time soon, I do like the premise. There are many things in this world I cannot protect my children from. I cannot shield them from sadness nor pain nor the knowledge of death nor even death itself. But I can help them face those great and terrible things. I can teach them that it’s okay to be sad and to feel and to cry. I can teach them that sometimes, even though something makes us sad or scared, we don’t have to look away. We can be brave in the face of the great and terrible. 

Childhood is when we experience our worst fears. We learn to confront them, to challenge them, and sometimes… to even make peace with them. 

“Mom, when we die, is that it?”

I smile. “Ah, what do you think?”

“I think there’s more.”

Children are not oblivious nor as fragile and weak as we like to think. They are not our own, but a part of something much bigger than all of us. ❤ 

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” 

-Khalil Gibran

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