Friday, November 12, 2010
putting things to rest
Ansel came down to our room before dawn one morning, obviously traumatized.
"I had the worst dream of my life," he exclaimed as he pounced under the covers beside me.
"Do you want to tell me about it?" I asked as I readjusted my sleeping position to accommodate him and his sprouting limbs.
His body felt unusually stiff. His clutch on my arm especially tight. I knew this paralysis well, having suffered from multiple nightmares, always starring a kidnapper crouching under my bed, politely waiting for me to fall asleep before he snatched me. I would be safe if I never fell asleep or didn't let my feet dangle in front of his face. As the memories enveloped my mind, I enveloped my arms around Ansel.
In a few minutes, his muscles slackened and softened into slumber. I soon followed.
I assumed this dream had safely found it's own resting place, far from the reaches of the 6 year old psyche. Turns out it was one of those dreams that refuses to hibernate until it has devoured every last morsel of bravery and rationality in the possession of it's prey. My own childhood nightmares led me to believe that the evil intention of every person that crossed my path or the path of my siblings was to steal us, eat us, and nail our inedible hair to their wall in remembrance of their conquest. This led to some rather unpleasant trips to the grocery store or park. I knew that Ansel was suffering in a similar way when his countenance changed as darkness fell.
"Mom, I want to move to the city. I want to go to summer school. What do bears like to eat? Are bears hibernating yet? Can bears turn doorknobs? I like the day time better than the night. I am NOT going outside to play ever again. What if the bears in the mountains get hungry and smell our dinner? Can we eat away from the window? What if it is a nerd bear? [After some questioning, I found that he meant a bear with rabies]. Can bears pick up cars? Could a bear find our house if it had a compass?"
"Ansel, did your bad dream have a bear in it?" I took a wild guess.
"Yes, and it was wearing a pumpkin on it's head and reached into our house and grabbed me and I think it ate me, but I woke up before he swallowed." Ansel's dream confession was accompanied by tears and an open armed invitation for me to swallow him with a hug. I don't get many of these invitations anymore.
I must make a confession of my own. Part of me wanted him to remain vulnerably terrified....to need me....to let me hold him. I almost wanted to say, "Yes, it is very likely that a bear could come here and reach in the window to get you; but as long as you are staying close to your mother and letting her hug you all she wants, he won't dare bother you."
Oh, how tempting it was.
But a quote by Marie Curie came into my mind with radioactive force. "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."
I felt impressed that we conquer this fear by learning all that we could about bears. For the next several days, we looked up the hibernation patterns of different kinds of bears, what they eat, what to do if you are confronted by one, how many people have been killed by bears, the microscopic chances of being killed by a bear, etc. (I probably didn't need to tell him that he was more likely to be killed by his father).
This went on for almost a week and darkness came earlier and earlier each night. Ansel faced his fears and asked, "Can we do some more research on bears?" And we did.
There were still some lingering irrational thoughts and desires to bring pepper spray in his lunch box.
We all have irrational fears.
Yesterday, we were window shopping in Coeur d'lane and saw a bronze stature of a bear, standing erect and looking rather menacing.
"Can I buy that, mom?" Ansel asked.
I think we've put that fear to rest.