My husband and I met promoting admissions for our college on teams that went to camp during the summer. During training, long before we dated, he and I and a fellow camp team friend, Dawn, watched a scary movie at the dollar theater. Hostage. As a rule I avoid anything terrifying and this movie reinforced my standard.
I was shaking when it was over.
Thankfully, Dawn and I were equally rattled. We clung to each other with both arms as we walked out to the van. It was night, which doesn’t help anyone break out of the movie world. Dawn suggested we go somewhere well lit and just bask in reality for a while. Wal-Mart was our snap-out-of-it sanctuary that night. It took a while for us to release the death grip we had on each other even after we were in the store. I can imagine how weird we looked.
Reality is the greatest antidote to our imagined fears and worries.
Recently Grandma gave the kids those little toys that are in pill form and dissolve and open into sponge creatures in the bath. We played with those things for a good week before the unthinkable happened. The small blue seahorse sponge WENT DOWN THE DRAIN! The way my 4 year old daughter carried on about it you would have thought the whole earth was slipping down the drain. Hysteria.
One of the greatest things about having kids is that they help you remember what you were like as a kid. I would lose it BEFORE I had to get a shot. My having an overactive imagination is an understatement. I have unfortunately passed this crazy baton to my child. So, instead of laughing (hysteria and hysterical are kissing cousins right?) and instead of telling her to cut it out because it’s “just a toy,” I started in on the, “Your seahorse is probably having the time of its life riding the pipes and going to the ocean where it belongs.” Yep, I started doing the parental lie. That was the last of my “I’ll never do that as a parent” quips that I hadn’t broken.
I knew I was missing the “just a toy” teachable moment. How to get there gently though…
A dose of reality was needed. What’s the shot in the arm (terrible choice of idiom, I know) for freaking out about losing a seahorse sponge down the tub drain?
I held my girl, still wrapped in her towel, shaking with tears and red faced and smoothed back her hair and looked in her eyes and said, “Do you want to see what real seahorses look like?” She nodded.
I used some cellular data and found a great YouTube video of several kinds of seahorses with celestial music accompanying them. She calmed down, watched the 2 or 3 minutes and we chatted about how amazing REAL seahorses are. Then I said, “Your blue sponge seahorse was just a cut out sponge right? It’s not real. It’s not really worth crying over. It probably went down the drain and may make it out to some water, but most likely it’s going to the water treatment plant and will be gone. That’s okay though isn’t it? These are real ones.” I then had her finish the phrase, “It’s just a… toy” a few times. Repetition of truth is good therapy for us wild minded types.
It’s been about a month since the incident, and we still haven’t put a new drain guard on the tub like we should, but the other sponges were put away so they won’t share the same fate. She still brings up the blue seahorse now and then and makes up some pretend stories about it having friends down the drain, but she also talks about wanting to see the real seahorses.
What about you? What’s your head hang up that rattles you and what do you do to ground yourself again?