"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Rainbows & Breakthroughs

Behind my sister's house
Several months ago, the kids and I got caught in a horrific hail storm.  We were at the playground, and even though it was starting to look like rain, we weren't in too much of a hurry.   People were rushing around, gathering up their things, but we kept playing.  I tend to be of the nonchalant, "so if it rains, we'll just get a little wet," ilk, and the kids love playing in the rain anyway.

Suddenly, it was like someone flipped a switch:  the sky turned from grey to black,  and the wind.... I can't even begin to describe the wind, except to say that if I hadn't picked up both Everett and Tegan (6 and 2.5 respectively) I don't think they would have been physically able to even stand in it.  We quickly ran around retrieving shoes and water bottles from where they'd been left under slides and swing sets, and headed - running - to the car.  That's when the hail started hitting us.   Huge, hard, and painful, they beat on our bodies as we flew across the grass.

And that wind!!  I'd never been in wind that bad in my life.

Everett and Tegan were both crying, and Spencer was starting to do a gasping, hyperventilating thing that was frightening me even more than the weather.   I tried to reassure them - and myself - as we ran, but it was so loud I doubt anyone even heard my words.  We finally made it to the car and just sat inside it for awhile.... drenched, cold and breathing heavily... but otherwise no worse for the wear.

By the time we got home, ten minutes later, it was over.  We were greeted with these all over our front yard:

The biggest hail I've ever seen
Ever since that day, Everett has been extremely fearful and anxious about wind.  (Can you blame him?)   He hasn't wanted to go to playgrounds, hasn't wanted to go outside, has declined play dates, and has cried at even the smallest amount of breeze when do have to be out.  On his worst days, he wouldn't even have to be outside to be afraid.  He would hysterically cry at just the sound, just the thought, of the wind outside.  He's been genuinely, and inconsolably, terrified about the possibility of getting caught in another storm.

As a parent, it is both heartbreaking and frustrating to see your child so strongly clutched by a fear, and feel powerless to stop it.  I tried my hardest to respect it, and to honor his feelings.  I held him, I talked to him, I comforted him, I reassured him... oh how I tried to reassure him!... but still the fear remained.    It was a paralyzing fear, one that kept him under the porch's cover as I would push Tegan on the swing, wanting to join us but not able to make himself do it.   I hated seeing what it was doing to him, and as much as I hated it for him, I know he hated it more.   My sweet, happy boy wasn't always happy any more, and I didn't know how to make it better.

I thought it was starting to get better, but a few weeks ago we went off-roading.  It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and we'd stopped for a picnic lunch at a really beautiful spot up in Sedona.   And again I held him as he cried, petrified, when some wind started to pick up. 

I shared my own stories of fears with him.  I shared other people's stories.  I told him I didn't blame him for being scared, but that he was safe.  "I know all of that!" he'd tell me through his tears.  "I tell myself not to be scared, but I just don't know how to stop it."  And I didn't know either.  So I held him, and we waited.

And slowly, slowly it has started to get better. 

Today, we took the two youngest kids out to the library, and to go grocery shopping.  It had been raining in the morning, but it was relatively clear when we left the house.  They chose some books from the library, and we made quick work of our shopping list.  It was windy when we left the first store, but Everett was too busy eating his Clif bar and chatting about his upcoming birthday to pay much attention.  It was very windy by the time we got to the second store, enough that I was watching him - waiting - as we exited the car.  Still he was calm and happy as we went in the store and grabbed our last few things.  When we came back out to the parking lot, the air was thick with the heaviness that comes before the rain.  The storm clouds had all gathered together into one massive sheet of charcoal, and the wind was whistling in our ears.  And Everett grabbed my hand, laughed, and wondered aloud if we'd make it to the car before it started raining. 

He laughed.  I didn't say anything at the time, but the fact that we were hurrying through the wind and darkness once again wasn't lost on me.  But he wasn't crying.  He was happy.  And this time, he was still smiling as he buckled himself into his seat.  It started raining just as we pulled away.


When we got home, I gathered him up in a big hug, and asked him if he'd realized that we'd been out in the wind.

"Oh yeah!"  he told me.  "I didn't really think about it until just now.  It was pretty windy, wasn't it?"  He was still hugging me.

"Yes, it was.  And we were fine.  You were fine, weren't you?"

"Yeah, I was!"  He sounded happy.  Proud.  And then he ran off to watch T.V.

I don't know what made the difference.  Maybe it was just time.  And I don't know that we won't have to deal with scary wind moments again in the future (in my experience,  a lot of these things tend to take the path of a one step forward, two steps back resolution) But I do know that today was a huge leap forward as far as I - and Everett - are concerned.    I am thankful, and I am relieved.

Just after we got home, when I was still celebrating his victory, my sister sent the above picture of the rainbow.  I couldn't have gotten a more perfect picture at a more perfect time. 

It's a new day, and it's beautiful.


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