I wrote this little stupid piece and submitted it to Urbanite Magazine. They rejected it so I'm posting it here because it's my blog and I can post my crappy writing if I want to. So there.
“Mommy, I’m scared.” My two-year old son reaches for me. He buries his head in the crook of my neck, his tiny hands grasping my hair, his breath quick and shallow in my ear. He is terrified.
“What are you scared of, honey? There’s nothing to be scared of,” I say. He holds on tighter, his feet trying to find traction on my torso. He’s desperate, desperate to get closer, to feel safe. Each time I ask him to tell me what he’s scared of, he holds tighter, he buries deeper, he breathes faster. As if giving his fear a name will bring it nearer, make it more real.
“No witches in here,” he whispers. It’s a statement; it’s a question. He’s trying to assure himself, but he wants me to tell him. Tell him there are no witches.
“No, honey. There are no witches in here,” I tell him. I’ve just read him a story and turned out the light. He requested that I lie down with him for a little while, a request that I always indulge. I think of my father, who would sit with me at night, when I was scared.
“Pretend you’re a piece of spaghetti. Or a bowl of jello,” he would say. A silly game, I thought. I didn’t know then, why he would say this. That this silly game was my father’s attempt to calm a nervous child. Trying to find the magic words to calm a child's fear.
I know this now, as I sit with my own son, trying to find the magic words. There are no witches. But it is real, the fear he feels. I can feel it in his breath, in his grip. I can feel his heart racing. It doesn’t matter what it is, witches, dragons, bears. A child or an adult. Fear is the same. I know it. I know how it feels. And it breaks my heart a little, that he knows how it feels too.
I know that through his life, he will have fear. Of things real and imagined, things large and small. I know that. Someday he will have to learn to comfort himself. I won’t always have the magic words to calm him. But right now, I do. So I stroke his back and sing, feeling him slowly relax his grip on me. He is breathing deeper now, feeling safer. There are no witches.