The other night I was driving home with my car full of kidlets from my parent's house. It was very dark outside and I was enjoying that beautiful solitude that comes with dozing children and skies blanketed in black. One of my older children (who shall remain nameless) was sitting up front with me since Josh wasn't with us.
This child was sitting with legs crossed on the bucket seat. The youngster kept adjusting position and fidgeting and just looked really uncomfortable. I eyed him/her for a little bit and then asked if he/she was ok. I got a nod in response, but the crumpled face told me that that wasn't really the whole truth.
The squirming and wriggling continued until I finally said, "You know, you can put your legs down. You don't have to sit with them crossed like that."
An almost guilty look tackled the little face as my now embarrassed offspring responded in a barely audible murmur, "I can't. I'm afraid something will grab my feet from under my chair."
I didn't know what to say. I have been a mom long enough to know that just saying, "That's silly, there is nothing under your chair," isn't really very helpful. I just reached across and held my sweetheart's hand, hoping that maybe that would help a little.
My youngsters are prone to being scared, they always have been. When Bryce was four he nearly missed his pre-school Halloween party because he was so nervous around costumes. We've discovered Parker in his bedroom with the overhead light, desk lamp, and both boys reading lights on (not to mention the lights for the hall and nearby bathroom) because he woke up in the night and was afraid. I could share similar stories about every single child in our house.
We try not to push our timid tykes too far, but still try to help them expand their courage when we can.
However, when it comes to moments like this one in the car, I really don't know what to do. I don't know how to fix a fear of something that is just so beyond reality.
I remember being afraid of things as a kid. The closet across from my grandparent's bathroom doesn't shut tight and I remember sitting in that room for long periods when I got up at night too scared to scuttle past that barely open door, just sure that something was going to reach out and grab me. I knew it was ridiculous. I knew in my brain that nothing was there, but I just couldn't convince the rest of me that that was a sure thing.
I am glad that my little one trusted me enough to tell me about this fear. I am glad that I could be there by his/her side so that I could offer whatever small piece of comfort my presence might give.
This whole fear of things is a work in progress. We'll see how it goes.
P.S. If you have any fabulous ideas that might be helpful, I would LOVE to hear them.