24 March 2010

Not The Sandman, Anymore...

Say your prayers, little one
Don't forget, my son,
To include everyone

Tuck you in, warm within
Keep you free from sin

Till the sandman he comes...

"What scares you, daddy?"

That she asked me that question at all is not in and of itself to be unexpected. That she asked me out of the blue, on a pleasant spring evening, freaked me out and nearly made me stumble. It was in no way a question that I really wanted to be asked. Especially by a child.

We were on an evening stroll around the lake at one of my favorite parks. The sun was setting, the air was cool and it was nice all around. It was the kind of evening that made me feel like a human being again, the claustrophobic snows of February seemed a distant memory. Spring, it was the first day of spring. I had no desire to start thinking about fear, and weakness.

"Well, sweet pea, I don't really know for sure what makes me scared." This was really adult-speak for 'I know but I don't want to tell you, because it is too hard to explain.' The Wee Lass was having none of it.

"Are you afraid of getting hurt?" I have a feeling she asked me that because earlier she had stumbled and scraped her hands and knees.

"Yes, I am, a little."
"Because...getting hurt...well, it hurts!" was my lame response.

Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight
Exit: light
Enter: night
Take my hand
We're off to never-never land

Yes, we are. But my never-never land is very different from hers. Hers may be one of things that she wants to never come to pass; mine...is populated with things that I wish had never happened, and the dread of things that might happen. How to explain this to a new and growing mind? A mind that tends to see things in simpler terms than mine, more black and white as a general rule, and not those horrible shades of gray? Or worse: non-colors that I cannot identify and that morph into fear, anxiety and panic.

Sleep with one eye open...ha...this presumes that one gets to sleep at all. I sleep, yes, but not with the sleep of the innocent. By innocent, I mean one who is mostly free of terrible knowledge, things that kids do not know and will not comprehend until they get much older. Things that, as an adult, I wish I could forget, or make it so I never knew.

Something's wrong, shut the light
Heavy thoughts tonight
And they aren't of Snow White

Dreams of war, dreams of liars
Dreams of dragon's fire
And of things that will bite

She continued to look at me expectantly. I found myself at a loss for words. I may have muttered something about bad dreams or not having a place to stay. She has told me before that she is afraid of bees and sharks (she has had 'being chased by shark' dreams), so for her the things that will bite are very literal. They can be named. They have teeth. They can chase you around and around.

The things that will bite me are not so corporeal. Their teeth may be invisible, but slash to the bone all the same. How do you run away from a panic attack? How do you evade watching a loved one die? What to do when you lose your job, or are subject to that constant pressure of meeting the responsibilities of life without losing hold of what gives you life?

Hush little baby, don't say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It's just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head

This I will not tell my daughter. I cannot. I will not, not now, not when she is so young. I do not know how I would even begin to tell her that, when we grow up, the things that scare us usually do not have legs, they do not bare their teeth, at least not in the material world. The things that scare us live in the caves and swamps of the mind. If we are fortunate, they stay there. Sometimes, we are not so lucky. It is then when we have to dig deep within and search without for help slaying the dragons. Perhaps the strength we get from those whom we love, the things we cherish, the beliefs we hold, keep those monsters penned up. 

So it was that fine spring evening. I looked back at my daughter skipping up the path, and the eyes in the darkness beyond the firelight began to fade away. The breath caught in my throat when she looked up and saw me staring.

"Daddy, I want to hold your hand!" she announced with a smile. I reached out and grinned.

I want you to hold it, too, and never let go...

Take my hand
We're off to never-never land...

Lyrics used without permission: "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Perhaps the finest song about dread I have ever heard.


  1. Sometimes I'm watching my little daughter play while I am grappling with stuff, financial worries perhaps or maybe something cropped up during the day that has made me anxious, and I envy her carefree existence.


    But then again, other times I think about what I have learned and how I have *ahem* matured and I'm not bitter.

  2. It's smart to know what scares her. She's just trying to figure out the same for you.
    And I love that song.

  3. That's to sweet, to be so young and carefree again *sigh*. Sometimes, I wish I could fast forward my life. I dont want to say that I want to die or anything, but just get to the point where I'm content, not having to worry about my career, or finding my soul mate, or raising my children, but just know that I have gotten out of those obstacles in my life successfully and I'm ready to just sit back and enjoy worry free. But than again, what's life without worries, how else do we make changes in our lives (and in the world) without the desire to fix things? Maybe I should just eat cupcakes with Wee Lass and enjoy the Spring weather. =)

  4. Ah to be that old again when all out fears were clean cut, black and white.

  5. i think we learn to deal with fear slowly...the innocence of our childhood, hopefully protected and insulated as LONG as possible, helps us grow..our brains mature, the connection between cause and effect becomes understandable and a lot of those things that scared us as kids help us cope as adults. I feel badly for children who are forced to grow up too quick or who are encouraged not to express their fears or tears or pain, because how do you grow or learn if you don't DO? As Paul Williams wrote in THE BEST BOOK EVER (Das Energi): "Beware means BE AWARE" and the example he uses is that if a child touches a hot stove and burns herself, the next time, it isn't FEAR that stops her from touching it again...it is AWARENESS....

  6. Recently my family has had a couple of deaths. Namely, my wife's father, and his mother. My daughter, now 4 (5 in July) talks about it from time to time, but the simpler terms of which you speak are always evident in the things she says. She'll talk about how when you stop breathing, you can die, and then you get buried, and all you can do is "lay there and be lazy." She has no idea how it is. She has no idea how adorable she is.

    It makes me sad when she talks of things like that because I wish they could be as simple as that.

    What do I fear? I feel a sharp pang when I think of the day she finally understands these things. I wish she didn't have to grow up. Childhood is perfect in so many ways, just as it is. Why does it have to be ruined by something like growing up?

  7. I hope you relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the park with her.

    A great song.

  8. I'm a wee bit tipsy writing this Irish...but I had to.
    Brilliant writing again.
    Only a few would have the heart, soul, creativity and courage to mix the words of Metallica with the love for their daughter...

  9. Love the way you did this. Found you at Braja's, I think.

  10. Wonderful, just wonderful... I have been there (twice) and the words are always impossible to find, but somehow we and they muddle along .. Mine grew up ! that is a good sign :)

  11. Oh, IG! What a wonderful gift all of your written words will be for her one day, to be cherished by her. And she will.
    How very few of us ever get to know our parents this way. Bravo!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...