Wednesday, 11:11 PM, between chores
My entering-third-grade boy is going through a stage (hopefully?) of intense fear come bedtime. He has instituted a growing stack of superstitious rituals in the earnest hope that they will overcome his anxiety about going to bed – actually about pretty much anything involved with getting ready for bed or for starting the day – alone.
He brushes teeth and dons or doffs PJs in the family room, and plaintively calls for someone (typically me) to stand next to the door when using the bathroom. When it’s time to head upstairs he flicks on every light in advance of his path, and in his room has rigged up an old cell phone to play his favorite playlist of “spirit music” on repeat through the night.
The focal point of his tuck-in routine is the prayer we say – or rather, which I usually say while he assumes the apparently optimal blessing-receiving position, neatly clasping hands near his chin and closing his eyes until the Amen.
On this particular night we needed two rounds of tuck-in, the first ending essentially in hysteria after I refused to turn the ceiling lights back on (that’s all six canisters of them) as I left the room (with the night light on and door open, let the record show).
I’m afraid to say I did not keep my cool when he followed me, howling, down the stairs. I in fact lost it – lost my temper, lost my mind, however you care to put it – and it was ugly. Many utterly exasperated, had-it-up-to-here-and-beyond words were hurled by me.
“YOU NEED TO TELL YOUR BRAIN YOU ARE OKAY!” I shouted. Multiple times. Which led to an even more exasperated conversation about how exactly one does that – but which did produce a sound argument for standing on the Truth of all the ways in which he and his life are blessed beyond measure by a Father in heaven who loves him beyond measure.
He seemed to get it, at least a little. The house volume had returned to night-time quiet. I helped him get into bed again, but this time without all the embellishments. He asked in a small voice dialed precisely to my heartstrings for “just a prayer?” which I agreed to but insisted he start this time.
With a small voice he pressed through some faltering to ask God to help him not be scared, and (with some line prompts) to say thank you God for being his almighty protector, stronger than any darkness or dark thought* that could give him worry. “For You are our fortress… our strong tower…”
All of which – all all all of which – I need to remember in my own day (after day, lately) filled with fears and anxieties.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge
and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
* Hydras and chupacabras, for example, described in graphic detail at day camp all summer, curse those fourth graders!
(Verse note: Psalm 91)