Billie: “It’s too hot. If you make me go outside again I’m going to need bacon, water, and an umbrella.”
FLASHBACK: August 17, 2012
There were grandiose promises of going to the water park before naptime today. Billie put on her “babe-ing” suit and was ready to go when I discovered that she had broken into the refrigerator and emptied the entire contents of her almond milk on the floor. I think this was partially my fault. We were talking about being brave and fearless while watching Dora the Explorer do random gymnastics moves today. She wanted to be brave, too, I guess, so she said she was “milk skating.”
I could’ve killed her.
Instead, we sopped up the mess and I told her that, because mommy had to mop the entire house (which, of course, had milk tracked all over it by a certain milk-skater), she had to go down for a nap- thus no water park. Well, until after nap at least. She was devastated. The whole, “we will go later” argument doesn’t compute to a two year old. I might as well have told her I had, single handedly, burned the water park to the ground and then danced on the ashes. Fits were thrown. Tears were cried. Curses of “you’re a MEAN MOMMY” were heard throughout the neighborhood. Still, it was naptime.
And then the thunder started.
See, we just came back from a two-month hiatus in California. I had forgotten all about the mid-day thunderstorms that plagued our quaint little part of Louisiana. Half of me felt vindicated. Like, “See? We couldn’t have gone to the water park anyway! Who’s the mean mommy now, sukkas!?” And then the other half of me remembered: Shit. Billie’s afraid of thunder.
I walked into Billie’s room to find her huddled desperately in the corner of her bed with her hands over her eyes. She was shivering in fear held to the bed by the imaginary threat of mean mommy going nuts on her if she were to get out. The “stay consistent” mommy in me should’ve let her ride her fear out alone. Most mommies of two-year-olds know better than to interrupt the pre-sleep-naptime process. You leave the kid alone, no matter the circumstance, and let them pacify themselves into sleep.
But, damnit, that’s my kid.
She’s shivering in fear as the thunder raps intensely at the ceiling above her, as if it wanted inside her room. Am I going to let that fear consume her until she falls into an uneasy sleep? Am I going to let her “figure it out” on her own? Should I be consistent? Stick to my guns? Why do I have the sudden urge to sit on the couch in sweats and stuff my face with ice cream while watching reruns of “The Talk?” Get it together, Heather. Make a decision.
She’s still covering her eyes so she doesn’t see me when I enter her room. I don’t bother explaining to her how futile it is to cover her eyes (especially since you can’t see thunder), I pick her up and hold her. She’s freaked out, “NO MOMMY! No! I want the bed! I want to hide! The bed!!! The bedddd!” She’s crying now.
“Can I show you something?” I ask gently.
She’s still sobbing when I walk her outside and she clutches desperately to my chest. It’s raining harder than I anticipated and she starts crying more.
“My bed! My bed! Let me hide! I want my beeddddd!”
“Wow, Billie, look!” I say, pretending not to hear her screaming nonsensical ‘mean mommy’ curses, “Look at the plants! They’re drinking allllll the rain up. And see that? The animals will be able to drink that puddle and play in it! And, over there! What a pretty flower! I bet that flower is happy for the rain!”
“Flower happy? For the rain?”
“Yes,” I say, “And look how green everything is! I bet it’s because of all this rain.”
The thunder crashes again, Billie’s clutches me tightly but doesn’t scream. I explain to her that the thunder is saying, “Hi,” and that the thunder is helping the rain feed the plants and animals (that’s technically incorrect but, c’mon, she’s two. Baby steps).
“Nooo,” she whines, “It’s scarrry.”
We’re soaked now. The rain is relentless and I’m beginning to think this lesson was more idealistic hippy thoughts than actually good practice. Shit. Well, I’m in deep now, might as well keep going.
“It is scary,” I say, “But if it didn’t happen then things wouldn’t grow. Then you wouldn’t have flowers. Or birds. Or bunnies.”
“Nope. No bunnies.”
She thinks a minute. I watch the rain drops collect in her hair before eventually soaking into her curls. She finally sighs.
“The thunder is scary, Momma. But I’m brave. And we need bunnies.”
“We definitely need bunnies,” I agree.
We decide to go inside and re-try the nap thing. I lay her down just as the thunder roars right above us. She shakes and looks as me expectedly. “It’s OK. You’re OK. The rain will end and the bunnies will be happy and then we will go play.”
She seems to be at ease with that logic. I kiss her on the forehead and walk to the door.
“The thunder says hi?”
“Yes. It’s saying hi.”
“Well. You tell it I need to go ni-night.”
She was asleep within five minutes after that.
I will never cease to be utterly captivated by her resilience. Her thought process. Her.
And I think I learned something. Lately I’ve been consumed by fear. I live in a new place where can’t find a job worth having to save my life. I’m consumed with the fear of failure to a point where it sometimes immobilizes me. I often feel that, maybe, these problems are too big for me.
…But I just watched my daughter conquer something that felt too big to her.
And she did it anyway with grace and wit and courage.
So, next time shit gets too real- too scary- I’m going to think to myself, “Yes. This is scary. But I’m brave. And we need bunnies.”
…Keeps it all in perspective, if you ask me.