Someday - FamilyEducation

Someday

June 09,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I was talking with a good friend at the pool yesterday about L.'s doomsday obsession and as she told me about her own childhood fears--some of them extreme--I remembered, too, all the things I had been afraid of when I was young. I forget sometimes how difficult it is for young minds to grasp the truly big things that are out there in the world--the things we grown-up people bury away as we get older, because we are "wise" enough to know we can't change them. But part of a child's coming into consciousness involves their confronting truly mind-blowing concepts like birth, death, natural disasters, and the nature of the universe--where is it, what does it look like? Does it have boundaries we can measure? Are there other universes out there? When will the sun, a star, turn into a red giant? When will the earth get too hot for human habitation? I remember lying in bed at night myself, my hand over my heart, feeling it beat and wondering, wide-eyed with fear, what it would feel like when it stopped beating one day. I used to wonder if the world would end in my lifetime and then, when I discovered it would be billions of years before that would happen, I filed my worries away.

Yesterday my friend asked me, thinking out loud, whether or not L.'s struggles with executive functions, were somehow impeding his ability move on past certain concepts. Was he unable to stare them down, process the facts about them, and move forward? I wasn't sure yesterday, but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this couldn't be true. T. is constantly reassured by the hard facts about things, or concrete solutions that help her cope with her anxieties, but L. has a hard time with accepting the concepts of "in the future" or "billions of years from now" or "some day not in your lifetime." Maybe all children struggle a little with these concepts, but I think L. struggles with them more.

"I think I think too much," L. told me the other day.  I told him there was no such thing, but I knew what he meant. Sometimes I think too much, too.

When I was pregnant with L. I wished for a sensitive, deep-thinker of a child, a strong boy or girl, who would feel the world, and not just move through it blindly. Then I changed my wish and wondered if it wouldn't be better to have a child who would take on the world more simply, and not feel it all so deeply. Thinking too much can be a gift, but such a heavy burden, too.