My mother has been watching her grand-kids this past week. During the summer of 2011 I babysat my nephew Logan. Like any child, he was afraid of thunderstorms. My mother came back to me with an interesting story about how his parents are reacting to his fear of thunderstorms amongst other scary topics. The key to my brother and sister in law in regards to managing the fear of the unknown, is to not talking about it. Sounds familiar.
My mom tells me, “When I start telling Logan about the lightning and the thunder, they holler at me and tell me not to talk about it. I tell them to hush and then, when they aren't around I tell Logan about how the lightning comes before the thunder. I tell him that it can be scary sometimes when you are sleeping and you don't know where it is coming from.”
I think to myself about how many things that we fear today that we resist discussing. Homophobia is all about fear. There is a fear of just discussing it. The topic can make some uncomfortable. Then, there is a fear that someone will be offended when we speak. A fear that something, “politically incorrect” will be said that there will be no recovery from an embarrassment. A simple mistake made when walking on activist egg shells. Like when news anchor Ashleigh Banfield from CNN accidentally referred to orientation as being a choice. The LGB T activists jumped on her attacking her for her mistake. And not tactfully either. She apologized relentlessly after the mistake was made calling it a misunderstanding. Like something we all have had. A simple misunderstanding. Something that can be tactfully corrected. A moment to educate and inform. (Ashleigh Banfield - Calls Being Gay a Lifestyle Choice)
Can you imagine sitting in a bedroom when an unexplained light flashes through closed blinds and an inexplicable bang shakes the foundation of your house. Mom and dad were not the ones responsible for it. If they didn't cause it, who did? What did? These questions must banter through my nephews mind in a rudimentary way when a storm hits. The way a two year old would try to understand such indescribable phenomenon. Beyond comprehension. A primordial palpitation of the heart. A concern. A series of whimpers and cries and erroneous explanations. What is this noise? This misunderstanding.
Grandmother follows her instincts and answers. She reasons with Logan when the thunder storm awakes him. When the rain pounds unforgivably against the cold pane glass of the windows. The wind shuddering waves of water. An insidious noise. I can just imagine the way Logan's grandmother, my mother would describe this to him. The way she would explain and talk with him. Telling him everything is ok. “What are clouds made up of? Are they made up of water?”
“Wawa?” Logan would answer.
“Yep. And what happens after lightning strikes? What is that noise called? Is it called thunder?”
“Yah. Should you be afraid of thunder?”
“I no know.” his hand would go up in the air as if he has been speaking for years. His face contortion would ask a question.
“No, we don't need to be afraid of thunder.” grandma would say calmly.
As another boom shook the foundation of the earth, Logan would jump off his bed and skedaddle over to grab “gamma”. “Woah, that was pretty loud hugh? Did that scare you?” granma would say as she caught her grandson.
“Ugh hugh.” his eyes would be a bit red with tears.
“Thunder won't hurt you. It's just a storm. Nothing to fear. Rolling rolling rolling, keep that thunder rolling.” grandma would start singing, making a parody out of the blues brothers.
Another flash of lightening would light up the world and Logan's eyes would bolt wide open.
“WOW” he would say.
And as the storm went on, “gamma” would continue talking to him about the big storm outside. Comforting him. Giving him the language used to cope with the unfamiliar. Very kind, soothing, tactful language. No bickering or hollering. No, “We don't talk about it.”
Because without the language to talk about it, without the knowledge to explain it, with the fear of discussion and making a mistake, there is no learning. Only useless arguing. Blaming. Confusion. Crying. “WOW”
“Don't try to understand them, just rope, throw and brand 'em. Soon we'll be living high and wide. My heart calculatin'. My true love will be waitin'. Be waiting at the end of my ride.” - Rawhide – Blue Brothers.
Jacob Woods blogs at http://goodasgay.blogspot.com