Friday, June 27, 2008


Jesse has a horror of thunderstorms. It started when he read the Magic Tree House book about a tornado (he will forever be able to quote which number - #23) on the same day that he read the one about the earthquake (another number etched in his mind - #24). This was a few summers ago, on the fourth of July. That night, we took my born-on-the-fourth-of-July father to a Braves game. A big thunderstorm erupted in about the fourth or fifth inning with giant winds and the drama of people running all around us for cover under the awnings. Jesse has never been the same since. We live in Georgia. Big thunderstorms are a part of summer here. There have been three short ones just this week. Jesse and our dog, Tuki, have both been shivering phobic sad sacks. I was thinking that he managed to overcome his fear last year, as I didn't remember him reacting this way. But then I remembered. Last summer there weren't many storms. We were in a drought. If we had any, the intensity of our family joy over rain for the vegetables may have kept Jesse from having room to be afraid, or we just over powered the thunder with our screaming?

Jesse's fear of storms had developed into a dislike of regular old rain. Then he saw a picture of Logan (a much older unschooling boy who taught him to play yu-gi-oh at an unschooling conference four years ago and is still thought of as a hero). In the picture, Logan is outside in torrential Florida rain. He looks so happy. He is loving the rain. Plus he happens to be next to four very cool looking girls. Jesse saw the picture and announced, "I don't think I'll be afraid of rain anymore." He was right. Here he is, outside in the rain, a few days after that:

But he is more afraid of thunder and lightning than ever. : (

I know irrational fear. When I was in fifth grade, my best friend at the time, Sally Solomon, brought me to her mother-the-scientist's laboratory, at Boston College. She had a very large rat in a cage. In my memory, it must have been four feet long. I have had a big fear of mice and rats ever since. This week, when Gillen had a chance to learn how to feed wounded wild animals, with Pete - one of the cool wildlife guys at Charlie Elliott Nature Center (something Gillen has been wanting to do for years) my seemingly insurmountable fear of mice had to go away. I had to be there. There were lots of frozen mice and rats to be weighed, and then fed to assorted snakes and birds:

It was fantastic how quickly I let go of my fear of flying too, when I had to fly with my own little people and didn't want them to be afraid.

I'm not saying I'm over the rat and mouse thing. The rodents this week were frozen, not to mention dead. I am going to pretend to be over it and see what happens the next time a live one is in my vicinity. I sure would love it if Jesse didn't have to wait until he has kids (or a girlfriend) to get over his fear. I was thinking of having some kind of ceremony to help him let the fear go and let the thunder in... Anyone have any better ideas? Or experience with phobias?


Kat said...

I am going to be no help with the getting rid of phobias. But as I write this, the thunder is crashing outside!

My youngest is terrified of bees and wasps. I keep trying to tell her that they are not interested in her...and if she goes about her day, ignoring them, she'll be ignored as well. I even try to tell her that she's stinky and smells nothing like a flower. Still a no go :-)

Madeline said...

Kat, did you know that a bee sting can help with your immunity? Is there a way to tell her that if she does get stung, the worst that will happen is that it will hurt for a bit and then make her stronger? That wouldn't have helped me as a child. They really don't want to sting you because they die when they do so (unless they are the queen, but she is not out much). I am overflowing with bee facts this month.

Angie said...

My middle daughter, Madelaine, (great name, huh?) was deathly afraid of tornadoes. We were acutally in a tornado and our house sustained damage, when she was about 10 months old. I never thought she would internalize that event being so young, but she did. For at least 4 years, every time the sky looked like it was turning dark, we would have to deal with, "is that a tornado, mom?", "is there going to be a tornado, mom?" "should we get to the basement, mom?" It was awful - she would literally panic.

We went through many rituals and even looked up the facts and statistics about tornadoes thinking if she knew a little bit about them, she would feel safer. Knowledge is power, right? Nothing worked. Finally, she just grew out of it. Maybe it just took age for her rationality to kick in. Now she's 13 and barely gives it a thought even if there is one in the area.

For me? Snakes. Dear God I hate snakes. Vegetable gardening should not be your profession if you don't like snakes. I literally will be standing in the garden screaming, cussing and sometimes crying when they are near me. We don't even live where there are any poisonous ones - these are just garden snakes.

Irrational fears - there's no explaining them.

Best of luck with Jesse - the pic of him is cute - great expression.

Angie said...

Hi, again! I just read your comments on my blog and want to thank you for your comments. Gotta love women who can appreciate a dirty house:) I laughed at the 'forensics' book - I wonder what the hell that was doing in there and if she ever actually opened it!!

Have a great weekend.

Madeline said...

That is exactly what Jesse does, panicking about a tornado or a thunderstorm at the slightest sign of a darkening sky. We have tried learning as much as we can about storms, to no avail. But after reading your post, he and I went on a walk and I told him about your daughter growing out of her fear. He liked that idea a lot. The purpose of our walk is pretty ironic, considering what you wrote. - we were checking out a tree where he had seen two long rat snakes mating as they hung off a branch yesterday evening. He loves snakes!