Sunday, March 13, 2011

Freedom from Fear



On the night of September 11 into the dawn of September 12 2001, when Sarge was in a living hell of coordinated chaos and fear, ending his first of three days of non-stop disaster response work, I kept vigil quietly at home, cuddling my 9-month-old daughter tight against me. Unable to sleep in our bed, I gathered every quilt in the house and made a cozy nest for myself and our little girl on the living room floor, turned off the horrifying news coverage, and lay down with Hedgehog. Through that night, I nursed her and cozied her and kept us safe from imagined disaster. She was free from fear, unknowing in her sweet bubble of babyhood, though I was not.

In March of 2011, she is ten, lucky in the calm regularity of her life, lucky to end each day of school and friends and light and play in her own warm bed, under the cheerful pink and green smiling owl coverlet we chose for her last August, her arm around her stuffed dog; a lamp in the hall glows in steadfast reassurance, keeping the monsters and the darkness away.

But upstairs, after her bedtime, we sit close together on the couch talking in frowns, because her father and I know better--that the world is terrifying, that darkness can only be held back so much and so long, that we can only make our best effort to keep her out of harm's way, and that for some people in some places, even a best effort is not enough. So we can only try--and probably--please God--succeed...

But how to keep her free from fear?

How do you keep your awake and aware ten-year-old child free from fear?

21 comments:

Ponita in Real Life said...

It's unfortunate that fear becomes part of life as we grow up. She will hopefully learn that fear is not something to fear in and of itself, but that it is a mechanism by which we stay aware of the world around us and not fall into the complacency that so many wallow in. There is a difference, I think, in having fear and understanding it for what it is, and being fearful of things that one need not be. As parents, I am sure you and Sarge do your best to instill the best of common sense in little Hedgie, and she certainly seems to have a good head on her shoulders, from what you mention of her here. Perhaps what you are experiencing in raising her is what all parents ponder and struggle with... ((hugs))

Sarah said...

i don't think you do. I think you instill in her the courage to face fears and the knowledge of where to find safety nets (or is it nests?).

And with that, she may find ways to face fears that you and Sarge might never even consider.

Pat said...

I agree with both the girls above me. I think it's important not to transfer one's own fears onto the child and to show by example.

Kiki Jones Lopez said...

My grandmother used to say something that my mom always hated, "I would not want to be raising kids in this time."

My mom, now the grandmother of my little boy, says she completely understands now what her mother-in-law was saying.

She is now saying those very words to me.

It is a very different time we live in and yet we find strength and love in the people we surround ourselves with.

We have to believe that we are doing our best to teach our children about the world around us. And let them know that we are there when they need us.

You and Sarge are doing it just fine.

savannah said...

just recently i was told by my now grown children that i didn't have to protect them anymore from the outside world. they knew even when they were young that things happened and the i/we helped to shield them from the worst of it. it's even harder now, but keep doing what you're doing, talk to your girl because she knows so much more than we ever did at her young age. pat is right, we lead by example. i followed the coconut krewe's advice and it saved me and the MITM. i wish you the best, sugar. xoxoxoxox

Jimmy said...

Like the perfume in the petals of a beautiful rose after the rain, a gift from nature will always slowly unfold.

nick said...

Well, I suppose the opposite of fear is self-confidence. The more you encourage Hedgie to believe in her own abilities and resources, in particular her ability to confront unexpected and difficult situations, the less likely she is to be fearful. The problem is not the object of fear but whether we believe we can deal with it.

Snowbrush said...

You were close to the event in more ways than one, so it affected you more. From the other side of the continent, I look at it in the context of cities that were bombed for weeks on end during WWII with tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousand killed and hardly a building escaping unscathed, and I wonder what gave those people the strength to go on. Maybe, like you, many of them had children, and therefore felt that they had no choice. I respect you for trying to make your child feel safe. It will give her strength later.

Leah said...

Snow, I think you missed the point of my post. September 11 was only an example of a time before my child was aware. Definitely wasn't a September 11 post.

This post was about everything that is happening in the world now. To people with children.

No context needed. No relativistic take needed. Just musing on the frightening state of affairs in the world, and the fact that my daughter is aware of that world.

Snowbrush said...

Okay, Leah, I'm sorry that I missed your point. Yes, the world is frightening, and I'm glad I don't have children partly for this very reason. Of course, the world has always been frightening, yet during my own lifetime, optimism in my part of the world has been on the decline. Every time it seems that the outlook couldn't get bleaker, the outlook gets bleaker.

63mago said...

I think there is no free from fear. I know a boy who was twelve years old in 2001, he understood what was happening and it gave him some sleepless nights. He reacted in the way that he wanted to understand why people did what they did, he could not understand that people suicidly kill. Two years make a difference in the development, I have no idea what I could have done, saied or explained to a younger kid.
Looking at Japan now and seeing the clouds from the local atomic power plant's cooling towers I feel damn fear.
In the end I guess its two things one can do. Trust your child and nurse self confidence. The fear will not go away, but you can keep it small and under control.
As Nick saied, give her the tools and teach her to use them.

L. D. Burgus said...

Thought provoking with a deep subject. A healthy fear keeps her safer but paranoia can not be the result.

Baino said...

Be informed. It's vital that children and their parents learn to view particularly commercial news with some degree of cynicissm, that they try to obtain all sides of the story. Terrorism by it's nature is working like a charm because we do live in fear. It's a dangerous world but it always has been. A little fear is a good thing, keeps us sharp and guarded. Too much and it locks us away in an agrophobic Hell. Leah, I think you're the type of parent that will instill a healthy respect for the fearful but enough optimism to ensure that she doesn't become ruled by fear. There's much to fear, and there's much to relish. Life's just like that.

MJ said...

I have no experience from a parental point of view.

But as a child, I found that being held and hearing the words “Mommy’s here” worked wonders.

It doesn’t COMPLETELY take away the fear (which is fine because we have to learn how to make our own way in the scary world) but it provides comfort.

Tracey said...

I have no idea.

I know this does not help the conversation any, but now you know you are not alone.

kylie said...

you know, i have rarely worried about my kids being afraid of anything, just tried to calm them if they were.
when i read a post like this i feel neglectful for not thinking of it but they seem to be doing ok and i assume they cope the same way i do: it's a long way from here and if it does happen here i'll just have to worry about it then. not much of a strategy but strategy has never been my strong point

Merely Me said...

"Free from fear" should mean having the tools to deal with it. Fear keeps us aware. I have no clue now but I hope to be honest, loving, thankful and 1010% supportive of my son...no matter.

Megan said...

I don't know. I know he doesn't tell me everything, and I'm sure that he has fears I know nothing about. But I do my best with the ones I do know about and I talk to him as much as he'll allow. The next few years are going to be very interesting...

Roses said...

My son is 17. He doesn't feel the soul-paralyzing terror that I do, when I think about him in the wider world. But, the terror I feel comes from wanting to keep him safe. If I acted on my instincts which is to wrap him up in bubble wrap and send him to school with two security guards called Biff and Shorty (who'll be huge and tattooed), I would be doing him wrong.

Fear, is good. It's there to keep us safe. But too much and it stops growth.

Looking beyond the fear, I can see beautiful things in this world. I see friendships between strangers, connections across the world.

Sorry, blame the waxing lyrical on a long day, a bottle of cider and my own terror of letting my son down.

Hessed Joy said...

I have the same fears as you do. I have a 5 month-old daughter and every night, I take a look at her peaceful face and ask myself how I am going to keep her safe and away from all the harm that the world can give. I fear for her more than anything else. And perhaps all parents do feel the same. Our children are our main concern, the center of our lives. But alongside this fear is a prayer to God that everything would be fine and that things will be always in God's control. I hope that prayers would also ease your fears for your child.

63mago said...

Damn knitting blog ...