This morning while still sitting in bed I heard Celie, while she was playing pretend beside me, telling her Snoopy “It’s okay, honey, s’nothing be ‘fraid of.” It is in the tiny moments like these that I feel proud as a mother, like she actually IS absorbing some of the things I struggle to teach her, the things I desperately try to push into the chaotic ADHD toddler sponge that is my daughter. Usually it’s something deeper that I then realize she actually DOES understand, and that is so touching and refreshing to me, because sometimes in the bowels of the battle of wills and ye olde discipline game, it’s hard to know if you are being heard, let alone listened to. I love that Celie has started into the imaginary play stage. It’s fascinating to watch when she really gets into it and forgets that I’m watching. When she plays, she’s in essence “passing it on”---playing telephone with my words. Those stuffed animals are in theory my future grandchildren, and I take comfort in the fact that she is already soothing them and assuring them that there is “nothing to be afraid of”.
Celie has been “scared” since early on in her existence, a year or two ago she started verbalizing being scared. She’s an odd kid. She sees “Ameet” and Shadows and is scared a lot. Not in a debilitating kind of way, she is still mighty curious and brave, but she has always been a little funny. A couple of months ago around 2:30 in the morning she woke up freaking out and screaming about “shadows” and them “touching her stomach”. She wasn’t entirely awake but pointing and it actually got me freaked out thinking like “HOLY SHIT WHAT’S THERE?” I assume she has some sort of night terrors, which would explain her hatred of sleep and the process of falling into it, although she still mentions these things randomly throughout her waking day. Randomly. No rhyme or reason sometimes. “Oh, there go a shadows...” I’m dumbfounded. “Okay.” What do you say to that? So needless to say with seeing “Ameet” everywhere and shadows and stuff she is “scared” a lot. I stewed over how to deal with this for awhile. I didn’t want her to be afraid, but I didn’t want to tell her nothing is there? What if there WAS something there? How the hell am I supposed to know what she sees? So I don’t want to negate any sensitivity she may have to such things because I force her into seeing things in my reality. It’s possible. Anything is possible. So how was I supposed to deal with her fear without simply dismissing it or neglecting her need for some true comfort? In the end, I chose to comfort her to the best of my abilities, but instruct her to not be afraid of anything she sees. “There is nothing to be afraid of.” I know, right? Why am I blatantly lying to my child like this at such a young age? In the darkness of a crazy world like the one in which we live, I perhaps would receive criticism because I chose to tell her that there is nothing to be afraid of. There is plenty to be afraid of, but is there really? We should be cautious of many things and be careful, but being fearful, I have found in my life experience, isn’t too beneficial. I don’t want my daughter to be afraid. I want her to feel her fear and recognize it, but not feel guilty for being afraid. I want my child to understand that fear is not a desired emotion or state of mind; it’s a bridge to faith.
I remembered a conversation I had with my Grandmother at her house, just before she was going in for one of her many surgeries, this time to amputate part of the leg that she had previously had several surgeries on trying to save. I was sick with fear and worry, but struggled with not letting it show to this woman, this incredibly strong and faithful woman. “I’ve never been afraid,” she told me that day. I marveled over that. “You’ve never been afraid going into any of your surgeries?” “No,” she replied, lowering her eyes and shaking her head, slightly nodding at the same time. "It's God's will," she said. The corners of her mouth rose into the small, humble grin of self pride and she beamed; to me that was more beautiful than Mona Lisa’s smile. Gram's self-pride didn't come from the fact that she wasn't afraid or was so brave, herself. You could tell it was REALLY in the fact that she knew she was teaching by example...every second of her life. She was teaching you not to be afraid...by not being afraid. I couldn’t prevent a teary-eyed good-bye, even after her reassurance; I was still unnerved by the whole ordeal and the fear of a surgery of such gravity on a woman of her age. I just remember how brave she was in the face of it, batting not an eye, eternal smile still on her face. Who knows if my Grandmother was putting on her straight face like I was trying to do, for the benefit of those around her, but honestly, you got the impression from Leona Cecelia that she walked her walk. She practiced what she preached, and she believed in her heart of hearts that whatever happened---it was God’s will. To a woman of high faith, such as Leona, this removed all fear from her. Whatever is to be, will be. Life will unfold. What is there to possibly fear when you know that it will all work out, regardless---regardless of ANYTHING? This is what faith is, folks; believing in something, no matter what the consequences. Believing that there is NOTHING to be afraid of. We can feel our fear, learn from it, use it to grow, use it as a warning, etc. but when it comes down to it, if you believe it is all in the hands of the Universe---then there is NOTHING to be afraid of. That’s where my Grandmother lived, sitting safe and snug with that everlasting smile in the palm of God.
You can’t teach faith. I will never be able to exactly convey or pass on to Celie my reverence for religion, value of positive thinking or faith, because I learned it first hand from having this woman in my life...through example. I could never set such a strong and positive example. Maybe that is why I feel like such a failure at times. I struggle with wanting Celie to truly understand my beliefs and get my good parts. This is the only way I know how. In little lessons that I hope my daughter is paying attention to. Some seeds don’t sprout for years, but it’s important to have faith that they are planted. I’ll never forget what my grandmother said that day, and it came to mind this morning as I watched my daughter comfort her “friends”, assuring them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. She was practicing the example she will someday set. Grandma has successfully, in essence, “passed it on” down to her great-great-grand animals. A lesson in faith and fear that she taught me is in turn teaching my children and will someday, God willing, be passed on to my children’s children. That’s one mighty legacy. That would definitely make her smile.