It was a sleepless night. Much of New Zealand had been woken by a significant earthquake and every shiver and jolt of an aftershock had us wondering if there was something even larger to come.
My son, Jake (5 years old), had slept through the main earthquake but my husband and I had woken him in order to get him to a safer place in the doorway. So he was awake for some of the aftershocks that followed and was anxious that the ground beneath him was no longer stable. He asked me to sleep in his bed with him for the rest of the night. Of course.
As we lay there in the dark, the questioning began. “Mum, will there be more earthquakes?” “Will they be big?” “What if there’s a volcano?” (a budding volcanologist, he had read in one of his library books that earthquakes can create volcanoes). His worst-case-scenario thinking was in full swing.
I desperately wanted to assure Jake that there was nothing to worry about. I wanted him to feel safe and to sleep peacefully. But I knew that the earth could prove me wrong at any time if I made promises I shouldn’t. And I knew that children shouldn’t be protected from the truth – they should know the world as it is and be supported in handling life as it really is. When answering Jake’s questions, I erred on the more favourable side of the answers, “there probably won’t be another big one.” But I also conceded – “I don’t know for sure”.
There’s so much about life we don’t know for sure. I had to admit to Jake that I can’t guarantee that our home and our lives won’t be disrupted, maybe devastated, by a future earthquake. In a way, I felt that I was contradicting all I have been trying to show him about having faith in life and the comfort that faith can bring. I didn’t want to take that away from him.
Later in the week, I got talking to other parents about how they had been supporting their children through the quake and it’s aftershocks. One mum spoke of showing her daughter that their family was prepared and ready to handle an earthquake. They had got out their Civil Defence kit and discussed their safety plans so she could see for herself that their family was prepared. I was reminded that having faith is not trusting that it’ll all be ok according to our own idea of what “ok” is (in this case, no more large earthquakes). Having faith is trusting that we will be able to handle whatever happens. Faith is also practical. We do our bit (prepare the Civil Defence kit, have plans in place etc) and let go of that which we can’t control.
The earthquake has provided opportunity for many spiritual lessons for myself and my family. I’ve not delved into all of them with my boys as I don’t want to spend too long focusing on the earthquakes. One thing we did do on the morning of the first earthquake was to offer a prayer of thanks for the safety of ourselves, loved ones and others. We also asked that those who were worse off than ourselves because of the quake be comforted and receive the help they needed. When I put Jake to bed that night, we each shared one thing we were grateful for (as we do) and he said he was grateful for our safety. Gratitude is available every time.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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