Parents have a lot to worry about, yet our children expect us to be calm, confident leaders. Our task is this: without ignoring our concerns, we need to create a safe harbor for the people who depend on us.
When I was about six years old my mom summoned my sister and me to a serious discussion. The topic was fire safety! If we ever smelled smoke, or if we thought our house was on fire, we were NOT to come to our parents’ room. We were to close our bedroom door, climb out our windows, and meet in the front of the house. After a tear-filled discussion about the unlikeliness of a fire, we were sent to rehearse the fire plan. Now we knew what to do in an emergency, and we knew that our parents knew what to do. They had prepared us.
I was afraid of the dark as a young child. My mom was sensitive to my fear and asked if I wanted to overcome it. I said, “Sure.” Opening the door of a closet, she directed me to get inside and sit down on the floor. “Are you comfortable? Are you scared in any way?” she asked. When I replied that I was fine, she said. “Okay, I’m going to close the door a bit,” and she closed it, but with a couple of inches of light still streaming in. “Are you okay?” she asked. “Yep,” said I. Then we talked for a while about various things until she said, “Do you think you’re ready for me to close the door the rest of the way?” I answered, “I guess so. “Very good,” she said, “and I’ll be right here outside the door if you get scared. I just want you to see that the dark doesn’t make the closet any different. You just have to get used to it.”
So she closed the door the rest of the way. Man, was it dark! But minute by minute it got a little lighter. I could see light at the bottom of the door. Soon I could even see the outline of my hand. “Hey, this isn’t so bad.” I thought. “How are you doing?” asked Mom from outside. “Just come out whenever you’re ready.” After a few minutes I calmly exited the closet, never to be afraid of the dark again.