There is no reason to be afraid

Yesterday afternoon Grace asked me to play American Girl dolls with her.  I told her I couldn’t right that minute, but that we could before bed if she wanted to, though she’d have to forgo TV.  No problem, she enthused.  Later, as we were playing, she mentioned that most of her friends at school don’t play American Girl anymore, and I felt a surge of emotion – some combination of panic and sadness, the steamroller of this life roaring in my ears as it flies past.

“Hold back!  Stop!  I panic, unprepared for change, but it’s too late … I cannot gather back one moment, only marvel at what comes next.” -Louise Erdrich, The Blue Jay’s Dance

Blinking back tears, I helped Julie the American Girl brush her teeth, and then I brushed out her long blonde hair, watching Grace chatter to the toy dogs as she lined them up, kissing each goodnight.  God, I thought fiercely, I do not want this to be over.  Not now, not ever.  I am not ready.

Then Grace tucked her two dolls in and told them a bedtime story.  I sat cross-legged on the floor, leaning against her bed, listening to her tale.  A lion named Aslan (guess what she’s reading) was presiding over a brand-new land in which a girl and her parents were lost.  The parents were scared of the lion but the girl could understand him, so he spoke to the adults through the child.  “Your daughter is special,” the lion said.  Grace looked up and caught my eye, and I smiled at her.  “She can understand when animals speak.  There is no reason to be afraid.”

Grace trailed off, leaning to pull the orange blanket up over the two girls.  “Grace,” I spoke to the back of her head, her brown hair already drying from her bath, “If you could have any super power, would you choose being able to speak to animals?”  She sat back down right across from me, shaking her head firmly.  “No.  I would choose invisibility.”

“Really?  Why?”  I was surprised.

“Well,” she hesitated, glancing away from me.  “Well,” she looked at me again and took a breath, “Sometimes at school, when someone says something that makes me feel silly, or hurts my feelings, I wish I could be invisible.  Just disappear.”

My chest clenched up.  I wanted to hug her against me, to kiss away all of those hurt moments, and to say to her, as her fictional all-powerful lion had, there is no reason to be afraid.  As soon as that thought passed, I realized I wanted someone to tell me that, too.

18 thoughts on “There is no reason to be afraid”

  1. powerful, lindsey. and painful. invisibility, hiding, playing small, dimming my light…my protection against fear. “there is no reason to be afraid.” a mantra i need right now. thank you to you and grace.

  2. the third and fourth grade girls at Abigail’s school say they don’t play American Girl Dolls either. And then they come to our house and play for hours. So while she is in your house, you still have time. Not endless time, but time nonetheless. The way you are raising her makes that certain.

    But at school? She has to make that little girl part of herself invisible. Ouch.

    May we always have homes where our children feel safe being who they really and truly are.

  3. Oh, this breaks my heart. I know that feeling of wanting to be invisible.

    But Aslan is right – there’s no reason to be afraid. May we all remember that.

  4. This disappearing wish seems to be universal–in children AND adults, and I wish, too, that someone would remind us there’s no reason to be afraid. Wait, we have you, dear heart, who HAS reminded us…and I SO needed this today. Thank you! xo

  5. Oh, wow, Elissa … I have trouble that I, who is so fearful, can remind ANYONE of this message that I myself want so dearly to believe. But thank you for saying so. xox

  6. Maybe it’s time to watch or re-watch the Incredibles? Violet’s superpower is invisibility–it’s a powerful metaphor.

  7. This makes my heart hurt. Growing up a girl (a teenage one even more so) can be a painful process. My daughter is already showing signs of the hurt caused at school and all I can do is try my best to help show her what really matters most.

  8. Wow. Wow. Wow. This motherhood, and womanhood gig is really so hard isn’t it? My oldest son is sensitive, and sweet and loving and I hope he never changes, never becomes hardened as men are expected to do. I see the world propelling him in that direction and like you I feel it well inside of me. Let’s us hope we can preserve as much of this innocence as possible.

    Hugs to both of you.

  9. I remember being crushed when my 6yo came home from Kindergarten and told us that he’s never wearing his Mickey Mouse sweatshirt again because some boy made fun of him, calling him a baby. It broke my heart. Why do kids need to grow up so fast (and ruin it for those that don’t) and adults just want time to stand still?

  10. What is it with you lately? I can’t visit here without you making me cry. I’m so raw right now over the way-too-fast-growing-up of my children, and the vulnerability for them–for me–as they get older and I can protect them from less and less.
    Always such beautiful and resonant writing, Lindsey. Always.

  11. I am beginning to think that this is what we all need – to know that we don’t have to be afraid, to have a safe place to retreat to when it all gets to be too much. Thanks to Grace, and to you, for this…

  12. When I was a kid I couldn’t get the invisibility cloak off… but I sure wished I could talk to the animals (well, actually I believed that I could). When I was reading this I thought that Grace didn’t wish for ability to talk to animals because she already has that—as for the wish for invisibility, I wonder if we might not overcome our fears by more fully seeing our own, and each other’s, fears, shame, pain and not looking away, not rendering others invisible and daring to be seen in the full spectrum of our humanity. You lead the charge, Lindsey, with your unflinching honesty.

  13. This was absolutely beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes.

    Yes, I’ve gone back and read several of your posts… your words are deep and flowing and lovely. Why wasn’t I reading you earlier!?

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