I get out of bed and pad down the hallway to his bedroom.
“I’m scared”, he murmurs when I reach him.
I crawl into bed with Jake and asked him about his fears.
Bad dreams, fires and intruders have been his main concerns lately. One evening, as we were putting our boys to bed, my husband had to take him downstairs to show him that the front door was securely locked and there was no way for someone to get into the house. Last week, I had to reassure him that our smoke alarms are loud enough to wake us if they go off while we’re asleep. But I know that, when we’re in a state of fear, we are unable to be reasoned with. Our brains have been hijacked by our fear, unable to gauge the unlikeliness of the possibilities that terrify us.
As I held Jake, I remembered the terror I used to feel as a child, lying in my bed, listening to the sounds of the house, convinced that someone had found a way inside. In the dark, my imagination was my worst enemy.
Even at forty years old, the dark still has a way of bringing out my fears.
I listened to Jake until he felt he’d told me enough about his scary dream then I just lay with him, chatting a little.
After ten minutes, it was time to extract myself. Remembering my own childhood middle-of-the-night anxiety, I wanted to hold Jake ‘til morning so he could relax and fall asleep in a sense of safety. But I knew that this wasn’t going to be the first time he’d need me to comfort him in the dark and I didn’t want to set a precedence for sleeping night after night squeezed into his single bed together. I told him he could leave his lamp on for the rest of the night if he liked and suggested he read for a while to make his eyes tired. I also reminded him that, at any time, he can choose his thoughts and that maybe he’d like to have a happy memory or wish ready to think about whenever scary thoughts come to mind.
But I felt helpless. I couldn’t make his fear go away. I couldn’t tell him for certain that, if he fell back to sleep, the bad dream wouldn’t come back. Or that we will never have a fire in our house. Or that someone unwanted won’t ever find their way in.
So I offered to do for Jake what I do for myself when my fears are running amok.
“Would you like me to say a prayer with you?” I asked.
I began my prayer by asking that Jake be protected from bad dreams, fires and intruders. But I realised that this prayer would not be enough to settle Jake’s mind. For, while we can tell God/The Universe what we’d like, we cannot tell It what to do. So I continued my prayer by asking for Jake to know that God is always with him and for his scary thoughts to leave him alone, replaced by happier ones. Essentially, it was a prayer for him to see things differently – without fear – one I’ve learned from A Course in Miracles.
“Does that help?” I asked, uncertainly.
Jake smiled and nodded.
I didn’t know if Jake experiences relief through handing things over in prayer like I do but, the next morning he said to me, “can I call you in the middle of the night whenever I get scared and we can say a prayer together?”
“Of course”, I said. “Anytime”.
CONCLUSION – PRAYING WITH CHILDREN
Spirituality without a Higher Power of some sort is kind of in-vogue at the moment. The power of the Self is revered – inner strength and manifesting etc. And, yes, we are magnificent, powerful beings. But that magnificence is God-given, an extension of Himself within us and, when our humanity is not enough to get us through the situation before us, we can call on that magnificence for help. Not necessarily to rearrange the chess pieces of our lives to our liking but to rearrange our thoughts for Love and peace. Time and time again, I have found this prayer – to see things differently – to be the most powerful one I say, easing fears of every variety.
Turning to prayer for support is a relatively new idea for my boys. Our prayers are normally of thanks and for guidance. (You may find this essay about introducing our children to prayer helpful) But I want my boys to know that The Universe is a friendly place, unfailingly supportive of them, even when they are feeling most confused and vulnerable. Praying is an act of faith, an acknowledgement that, while I don’t see the big picture right now, I trust that the intentions of The Universe are wise and loving. If my boys know that I am willing to lean on that understanding, maybe they will know that they can lean on it also. This is the gift that I hope to have given Jake that dark night.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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