“My son, Collin, is a very deep-thinking, deep-feeling soul. Some of his philosophical insights have left me awed or giggling (or both), and he’s only 9-years old. Years ago, Collin and his big sister, Cami, were discussing the confusing nature of dreams and how hard it is to figure out whether you’re asleep or awake at night.
Suddenly, 5-year-old Collin declared, “I know how to do it, Cami! How you can tell is: can you taste stuff?”
In other words, Collin noticed that he CAN’T taste the food he’s trying to eat when he’s in Dream World. And that’s just the tip of the iceburg.
Collin has explained to me he doesn’t believe in magic, which makes it hard for him to believe in God. He has told me he often talks to God in the bathroom about “man stuff,” such as asking God to help him grow up and be a good protector. And–most recently–he confessed he often worries about getting to Heaven and messing up ONE MORE TIME, which might cause God to kick him out…
I’m talking really deep, heavy stuff for a 3rd Grader! (Perhaps I’ll share more details about how I handled those particular conversations another day.)
Today, I want to talk about Collin’s Growing Pains, which led to the telling of a bedtime story you might like to file away for a child in your life. Or, maybe you’ll find it helpful just for yourself. It was helpful for me.
On Saturday, Collin woke up with what he described as unbearable pain in his legs. Having some experience with this before, he was able to self-diagnose the problem as “growing pains.” But he became increasingly upset about the aching, unrelenting throb.
He clawed at his calf muscles as his eyes began filling with tears, and he whimpered, “It won’t stop!” Both Daddy and I tried to be sympathetic. We told him we understood the discomfort, and we tried to offer a couple coping mechanisms. Have a drink of water and stretch a little bit. Take a slow walk around the living room, even though it hurts. Eat some protein. Focus on the positive.
But Collin was inconsolable. He took a quick sip of water and didn’t feel any better within 15 seconds, so his cries became more desperate. “It’s not stopping. It’s not stopping! IT’S NOT STOPPING!”
As a birth doula, I sensed this was a good opportunity to explain to my young son that panic causes more pain and that relaxation can help with the emotional/psychological stress. Yes, it’s HARD, and nothing can guarantee the pain will go away completely–but I know a thing or two about helping to make pain more bearable!
Yet, Collin wasn’t interested in my doula techniques. As soon as he heard me say that nothing can numb the pain completely, he gave way to total despair.
NOTHING can stop it? Not clawing or crying or pleading with Mom/Dad or banging my head against the wall? NOTHING can make this pain stop immediately?! Well, then WHAT IS A SMALL BOY SUPPOSED TO DO?!
Fast-forward to later that same evening.
Collin had enjoyed a full day of fun at the race track with his dad and grandpa, and the growing pains from earlier were completely forgotten. He was on cloud nine, with a belly full of pizza and other goodies, knowing the long holiday-weekend still wasn’t over. Life couldn’t be better.
And then he got a pain in his throat.
Before any of us knew what hit us, Collin was in the bathroom snorting and coughing and crying, “I’m scared!” because he couldn’t make his throat stop hurting.
At this point, it was nearly midnight, and Collin asked if he could sleep in my bed. I told him I would let him, as long as he wasn’t expecting an immeidate fix. So long as he was willing to accept the sore throat–and stop trying to cough it out!–then he could take whatever small comforts were available from being next to me in his suffering. And the two of us pulled the covers up to our chins.
After a few minutes, a story started taking shape in my mind. I love reading out loud to my kids, but I don’t always make up stories on the spot, for their benefit. Like most mothers, I tend to use the Lecture Method when I need to teach an important lesson. But this time–for whatever reason–I knew a story would go further with my emotionally-exhausted son. And this is the story I told him…
Once upon a time, there was a brave knight. He had a strong horse, and he had a good heart. But there was just one problem: the brave knight often struggled to control things that were simply not his job to control. He was so good with a sword that he tried to use his brute strength for EVERYTHING.
On a particularly sunny spring day, the knight was strolling through the King’s garden, enjoying the sights and smells, when he noticed a tree covered in fat, green buds. The tree was just beginning to come alive again after a long winter. And the knight remembered, from many springs before, that this particular tree bloomed with the sweetest, most amazing, pink flowers.
The knight loved this tree, and he loved those beautiful, fragrant flowers. So, he marched up to the tree and whacked it with his sword.
“Come out, flowers!” he called to the buds.
But–to his disappointment (and even a bit of alarm)–the tree didn’t respond to his demand. So, obviously, the knight whacked the tree again.
“I want FLOWERS!” the knight shouted at the tree. But, once again, nothing changed.
Now the knight was growing pretty upset and began wondering if he was losing his strength and wit. What would the King think if he knew how badly the knight was failing in this mission? How could the public trust him to solve their problems, if he couldn’t even produce flowers in the spring?
In desperation, the knight grabbed a bud off the tree and tore the casing off, exposing the immature petals inside.
“There!” he said outloud, thinking at least he had something to show for all his effort. But the more he looked at the crushed bud and the torn petals, the more he had to admit the mess in his hands was NOT THE SAME as the beautiful flowered tree he had pictured.
So the knight walked away defeated and sad.
To clear his mind, the knight decided to walk along the river for awhile. He always enjoyed the pleasant splashing of the water and watching the fish swim along the edge. He was just beginning to feel at peace with the world again, when he suddenly noticed the water was moving faster… And, in no time at all, the knight arrived at a dreadful waterfall, throwing all of his beloved water over a cliff.
“STOP!” the knight shouted at the chasm. “You’re going to drain the river! STOP!”
With urgency, the knight unsheethed his sword and sliced at the rushing water, continuing to shout the whole time. “The fish will die! The plants will dry up! STOP!”
He splashed wildly and begged the water to turn back, but nothing helped. Glancing around wildly, the knight noticed a large boulder on the bank, and he desperately hoisted it onto his shoulders.
* Plunk *
He dropped it into the river. But, ultimately, the large rock accomplished almost nothing in stemming the river’s mighty flow.
Finally, the knight realized there was nothing left to throw in front of the waterfall except HIMSELF. So he waded as close to the edge as he could get and pushed with both hands…until his feet finally slipped.
Oh–don’t worry. It wasn’t a deadly fall. The knight went over and landed at the bottom with a hard thud. But he was able to make it back to dry land relatively unharmed. As he sat on the edge, soaked and beaten, he looked up and noticed the view of the waterfall from below.
“Wow,” the knight thought to himself. “It’s actually kind of pretty.”
The knight still wasn’t totally sure whether the fish andcrops would be okay…
But, as he watched the water falling freely over the cliff, he realized the river never seemed to run out.
And it sure was mesmerizing the way that mist sparkled!
The knight watched the waterfall for a long time, until finally he decided he would like to visit it again some time. He revisited the garden the next day, too.
Still, the buds remained. No pink flowers (yet). But the knight began to wonder if it was okay to appreciate things as they are…
Nearby, the knight noticed a tiny oak sapling, just beginning to take root. He pulled out his sword out and gingerly moved the grass around it. The knight knew a time would come when that tiny oak could provide the wood for a glorious table or a throne for a King…
And then he put his sword away, and he waited.