Dealing with their fears

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The flash of lightning woke me moments before the crash of thunder brought my youngest son running.

"Mommy, I'm afraid," he said, his eyes large in his face, "I want to be with you". We curled up on the bed to watch and listen. Slowly, he relaxed and fell asleep, confident that no matter the situation, he was safe.

He will learn to face his fear of the storm, like most of us do. I remembered facing my fear of storms on the back porch. My parents loved to watch and listen to them roll through the valley, and we learned to do the same. It was a rite of passage, I think, to face fears and move on.

Eventually, I learned that storms weren't necessarily fun, and the approach of a large summer or winter storm meant my Dad would be working for several days straight.

It also meant we probably would have to find the candles, haul wood for the stove, and prepare to weather the storm. It was another rite of passage to understand how immense storms and their damage could be and still face the fear of the storm.

My boys learn a little about facing fears every day; some days the fears they face are from real storms and some days they are imaginary storms. I think the skills we use to face fears are the same, regardless of whether the fear is real or imaginary. For Mike and Matt, a little fear is an exciting thing.

They laugh and act silly before they get around to facing the fear they think they have.
Bigger fears require bigger skills.

Matt's fear of the storm needed to have someone bigger than he is to help him face his fear.

He says that fears like these need someone with skin on to help him; fake fur or button eyes just don't suffice. For Mike, bigger fears need superhuman skills - his own, preferably - in the guise of an alter ego. The cape is optional.

In dealing with their biggest fears, they have you. They have the police and firefighters, EMTs, and physicians to make sure that the fear won't get them. You see, because of you, at least these two little boys aren't afraid to play in the park, go out to the movies, go to school, or go to church.

Because of you, and the skills you have, their biggest fears - of being alone, or of being hurt - are small. And they can act silly and laugh around you. They appreciate that you have skin on, and know the cape is optional.