Soften the blow

Monday night we were hit by a ferocious thunderstorm of Nothing-like proportions. We were expecting bad, and bad we got, but thankfully not the tornadoes and hail that San Antonio received just south of us.

I’m not scared of thunderstorms; in fact I rather love them at night. But the twisters in San Antonio made me nervous, and I lay awake, listening to the constant rolling thunder and keeping my ears open for the tell tale freight train sounds that everyone describes to accompany a tornado.

I got up and peeked out the window at the sheets of rain.

I checked on the kids. Nothing. Sound asleep. Unbelievable.

I settled back into my bed and eventually started to doze, until CLAP! A horrifying crack of thunder made me jump off my pillow, literally gasping for air as if awaking from a nightmare. Christian held me tight, but I still tensed up at every flash of lightening, knowing another burst of thunder was right behind it.

I knew it was bound to happen that the massive thunder would wake one of the kids, and it wasn’t long before I heard it.

“Mommmmmyyyyyyy!”

I jumped out of bed and tore across the house to find Claire sitting up in her bed, cross legged and teary eyed.

“Hey, sweetie. What’s wrong?”

“The funder woke me up.”

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s loud, isn’t it?”

“Mmmmhmmmm.”

I knelt by her bed and put my hand on her knee.

“Can you make it stop?”

My heart sank. “No, honey, I can’t make it stop. But I can lay here with you so you won’t be scared.”

I settled on the floor with my head resting on the mattress of her low toddler bed, rubbing her back and stroking her hair. Her sweet brown eyes studied my own, and she lovingly rested her warm hand on my cheek. Even though I had to put on a brave face for her, I was thankful to share my tension and fear of the storm with someone.

Can you make it stop, Mommy?

I never really realized how painful even the simplest questions could be from my kids. In her innocent, four year old eyes, I just might have it in my power to make the thunder stop. But I couldn’t. And in the coming many years, there will be a lot of things I can’t stop, things I can’t protect her from.

A broken bone, a broken heart, a lost friendship, a ruined relationship.

The teasing and hurt feelings that come with kids learning the social ropes as they grow.

Not getting invited to that party, not getting that part in the school play or not making the cut for the volleyball team.

A car accident, an illness, the loss of a loved one.

Add to all that the danger, predators, mean girls, and future drunk frat boys, and oh my God I’m locking her in a tower for the rest of her life so nothing will ever hurt her.

I felt helpless. I couldn’t even stop the thunder. All I could do was lay there with her and ease her fears, giving her comfort in my presence.

I watched her sleepy eyes open every few minutes to check on me. “I’m still here,” I whispered.

I’m not sure how long I stayed. I drifted off myself and woke up with a cramped shoulder from my odd position.

She was sound asleep. I eased myself up from the floor and gave her one last glance as I headed back to my own bed.

But a part of me stayed with her that night, and her with me. I can’t always make the bad or scary things stop, but I can continue to be there for her, physically and emotionally, cushioning the impact they have on her, taking some of the blow it she’ll let me.

And oh, I hope she lets me.

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44 Comments

  1. “Can you make it stop?” Not being able to stop the pain is the worst and the best lesson of parenting. The worst in that my heart broken hundreds of times. The best in that I believe my job is to support and strength not fix my children (or anyone really).

  2. It’s such a sinking feeling to know that everything that might hurt or scare them we cannot stop. But we can be there when they need us and hope they let us. Exactly so.

  3. Oh Leigh Ann, what a beautiful post…made my heart hurt a bit thinking about all the things I can’t protect my boys from. We can do everything we can to love and support them in the now thank the Lord! I really enjoyed reading this one this morning and will carry it with me through the day, it is very thoughtful and well written. Thanks Leigh Ann!

  4. Leigh Ann, I loved this post and totally related to it. How I want to protect my son from all hurt, even knowing that some of those hurts are what will form him. Thank you!

  5. So sweet. It all starts with a “can you make it stop, mommy?” and we as mothers have to witness the things we aren’t in control of – that is the test of motherhood. Sweet post. My 7 year old is terrified of thunder and wind – I can’t imagine living near where tornados might strike, I’d be terrified.

    1. Funny how such a simple question can have such an intense foreshadowing of what is expected of us as mothers and parents.

    1. I agree, and being there for our kids is definitely more important than fixing their problems. (Although I did kinda want to make the thunder stop too ;))

  6. I don’t think I can sum up my feelings any better than Alex – what she said perfectly describes how I feel. But, oh, how parenthood hurts sometimes, doesn’t it? And fear of the unknown and what-ifs and the inevitability of heartbreak make the ache that much more acute.

    This was beautifully written, Leigh Ann.

    1. Thank you, Kristin. I hate to think about the hurtful parts of parenthood, but sometimes, in simple things like this, they just come up.

  7. Oh man, you just made me tear up a bit, as I have two girls myself, and I just remember the cliques in high school, and the mean girls, and the drunk frat boys…UGH!!! Definitely locking mine in a tower too 😉

    1. Let’s lock them together so they’ll have some company! We’ll make sure there are no mean girls and definitely no drunk frat boys.

  8. Such a sweet story. It’s hard to know that you can’t protect people (your children, especially) from hurt but rest assure that you being there to comfort her in those scary times will mean the world to her.

    1. Thank you, Miranda. I do love the times when it’s just me and her face to face in her bed.

  9. I live in Austin and we’ve been having crazy storms lately! After so much drought, who can complain? But the dogs bark and whine, the children need comforting, and Mama’s tired in the morning! Ah, well. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Ben. Night time face to face time with her is my favorite, and where we do some of our best talking. With 3 little ones, I don’t get enough one on one time with any of them. 🙂

    1. It is. I loved watching her little eyes open to check if I was still there. Kind of a validation that she wanted and needed me.

  10. When I was little I was terrified of thunderstorms. One afternoon it was pouring and the thunder was shaking the house. My mom and I hid under the sheets and she told me every time it thundered to scream really loud and she would too. And so, that ‘s what we did. Soon, our crazy screaming was so funny to me I wasn’t scared anymore.

  11. “Funder.”

    Melts you, right there.

    I’m a high anxiety person, and the only thing that helps me is to research and understand as much as possible about what makes me anxious. So I’m going to be that awkward parent who, although I’ll hug my kid and try to comfort him, will be explaining things like how thunder is caused by lightning which is actually electrons…and then my kid will be bored to sleep.

    At least, I’m hoping that’s how it will work. Otherwise, we’re gonna just call my aunt at 3 am and have her sing “Soft Kitty.”

  12. Next time tell her that you put in a call to make it stop, it just takes a while for it to turn off, like the toilet running after you flush it. But that it will definitely stop soon.

    Very touching post.

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