It took me about two days to realize that just because you become a parent doesn’t mean that you become automatically programmed with the right things to say…
I love how Kelly Ripa describes bringing home her first baby. She says that when they purchased a new television, they were sent home with a yellow-pages sized manual for operating it. But when they were released from the hospital with their first child, they were handed a leaflet. That is so true.
I often find myself struggling with answers to my little boy’s questions. Always fretting to be the best Mother Hen, I want to have all the answers to his myriad of questions on the tip of my tongue before he even asks them. That is rarely, however, the case. “WHY can’t I go up the slide backwards?” “Well, because…that is…bad slide etiquette.” (Brilliant, Mrs. Gore…) Or the time Gideon didn’t want to share with his sister. “Gideon, you have to know, that…seflishness…results in…your own alienation.” Which would have been perfect, if only Gid were a child prodigy or a college sophomore. He would have completely understood.
But I had a bit of an epiphany one night when I went upstairs to console a crying Gideon, one that completely changed the way I parent and the way I speak to my children. I walked into the nursery, knelt down by Gideon’s toddler bed and asked him why he was crying. “I’m afraid of the dark.” he said.
My heart sank. One, because I didn’t want to deal with nightlights. Two, because I don’t want my children to have fears. I have enough fears for all of us combined, too many, really, to fit in our house. We just don’t have room for more.
Although I have become braver since I became the mistress of Gore house, I have been or am still afraid of the following things: spiders, scorpions, june bugs, wasps, bees, snakes, coyotes, murderers, kidnappers, botulism, dying, cancer, expired milk, falling, heights, airplanes, staph infection, knocks on the door, ringing telephones, traffic, tornadoes, thunder, lightning, gunmen in church, gunmen at the mall, gunmen at public school, mean ol’ gossips, conflict, being alone, drowning, the second coming, and mice…for starters. And of course, I’m kind of scared of the dark.
In fact, one of the things that excited me most about getting married was…so lame…that I wouldn’t have to sleep by myself anymore.
And sometimes people think I am exaggerating when I say this, but I’m not. If anything ever happens to Mr. Gore, God forbid!, I am either immediately moving back home with my parents or to Silver Dollar City. Or maybe to Dry Gulch, U.S.A. Look it up online…its a safe place, I just know it. And if anything ever happens to my entire family at one time and I’m left alone in the world, God forbid that too!, I am moving into an assisted living facility. Secured entrances, a nice elderly person in the rooms on either side of me, all the food and checkers I could want and probably an occasional chauffered trip to Cracker Barrel. I’m.not.kidding. I would so do that, don’t you doubt me for a minute.
Anyway, so Gideon tells me he is afraid of the dark. What do I say? There is no end to the choices…
“There’s no reason to be afraid of the dark.” But yes, there is. That’s when most murderers do their evil deeds, that’s when kidnappers sneak into windows and steal children, that’s even when the mice come out. There are lots of reasons to be afraid of the dark.
“Don’t be afraid, Mommy is here.” No she’s not. When Gideon is asleep, Mommy is asleep. And Mommy sleeps so hard she would NEVER hear Gideon. Mommy is not here for Gideon. Gideon should be afraid.
“You’re my brave little boy.” No he’s not. If we did a line-up of scaredycats in this house, he’d be #2!
I think the Holy Spirit must have had mercy on me and done a rare take-over because even as I was struggling over what to say, I heard the following words come out of my usually very dumb mouth:
“You know what, Gid? Mama is kind of afraid of the dark, too. But Jesus is the light. In Him there is no darkness. And He can drive away all your fears.”
Even as the words left my mouth, peace settled around my heart, not just because I had finally said something decent in response to my son’s queries, but because there is nothing more reassuring to a little child or to his aged Mother Hen than the gospel truth.
My fears are what drove me to finally cling to my Savior, and so if being afraid of the dark will cause my beloved son to run as hard and as fast as his little feet will carry him to the Light of the world, and if his little hands will cling to that Light as the Only One who can cast out his fear and his sin and his despair…well then I can absolutely deal with the nightlights. And I surely won’t be offering the false hope of empty bravery or the wavering assurance that Mama and Papa will always be there…
Since that night, I haven’t tried to pretend with my son. When he brought up death in the bank drive-thru one day and said that he didn’t want to die, I didn’t act like death was no big deal. Death is a huge deal. Instead I confessed “I don’t want to die either. But because of sin, we have to.” And then I pointed him to Christ.
If my son and my daughter spend much more time with me, they soon will notice that Mama doesn’t have a lot of great answers. They might even notice that, in their house, Mama is the #1 scaredycat. But I hope what they notice most of all is that Mama talks a lot about Jesus. The hospital may have sent us home with a leaflet, but God has given us the Book of Life, with a response for every situation, a hope for every fear, a story that begins and ends with Jesus Christ.
He is the answer to every question we or our little chicks might ever have.
…Except for “WHY can’t I go up the slide backwards?” That really is just poor and unacceptable slide etiquette.