Yesterday afternoon there was a gypsy thunderstorm over my house.  Gypsy because it didn’t stay long, only a few minutes, treating me to just a few quick flashes of light accompanied by a playful rumbling, and it was gone.  It was almost a tease of what might be coming in the next few weeks, and certainly not threatening to me.   I was alone in the house but my thoughts immediately turned to the boys.  I wondered if they could hear it at school, just a short distance away.  And if they could, did the noise still engender that look of terror in their eyes? Or will this be the year they outgrow that fear?

I’ve never known a child who wasn’t scared of thunder and lightning, myself included.  It was always more about the boom than the flash, right?  Regardless, parents have forever tried to somehow quell the anxiety: 

With soothing spiritual folklore:  It’s just God.  He’s bowling.  Isn’t that FUNNY?

With distracting games:  Count the seconds between the lightening and thunder and you’ll know how far away the storm is! (This tactic almost always backfires badly and for those of us who saw the movie Poltergeist, we will never ever count again.  Ever.)

With practical science:  You will never be struck by lightening inside the house because you are grounded. Or in your car because…you are grounded.  Or while you are wearing sneakers with rubber soles… because you are grounded.

With topical analysis:  Lightening strikes the highest point… and you are not it.   Your brother is.

And with the stark truth:  If you hear the thunder, then you are okay because if you were struck by lightening, you would be dead before you heard anything. (Used only as a last resort)

Interestingly, none of this psychological trickery made me feel the least bit better when I was a child.  Yet I fed the exact same shit logic to my kids years later.  Children will always be terrified of thunder because it is LOUD…AND STARTLING… AND THEY CAN’T MAKE IT GO AWAY.  

But it will go away, leaving us exactly as it found us.  Unharmed. 

At some point as children grow older, they realize this fact and begin to unclench.  Some even begin to love thunderstorms and the front row seat from which they get to watch the unbridled power of Mother Nature.  Yet for most of us it takes a while – I would guess much longer than any of us care to admit.  And some people never feel comfortable in a thunder storm.

I made my peace with thunder years ago.  The odds are in my favor.  But in terms of the kiddos and their fears – I totally get it. 

After all, regardless of whether you’re a grown-up or a child, isn’t that which we can’t control what scares us most?

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