Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wind and marshmallows

(Early Summer, 2005, 4 years ago)

Kadin, who is usually very calm and stable and seems to have a sort of steady, internal rudder, is irrationally afraid of the wind. I say irrationally, because he is afraid that "everything" is going to blow away. And the more you reassure him and tell him calmly not to worry about it, the more he thinks he has to take on all the responsibility and worry about it for everyone.

If there is a piece of garbage that is about to blow away, he just has to run after it and retrieve it and put it in the garbage. And cleaning up litter is admirable, not something I really want to discourage, but we (that would be myself and a screaming, terrified child) have cleaned up the school playground several times now. Why does it always seem especially windy on Fridays when the teachers send home all the papers? And he will run out of the house, terrified, to catch flying plastic bags and such. I do not know how to save him from this internal burden he carries to keep things from blowing away. I have tried talking to him about the wind as the earth’s way of breathing. How is it refreshing and freeing. How it will come and it will go. How the wind helps birds soar and dandelion seeds disperse. And even if garbage does blow away, it may not be pretty, but it is really not that much of a tragedy. But he is clearly unconvinced of it’s positive merits.

And so when he came running home the other night terrified and in tears and it wasn't windy, I wondered what was up. He had gone over to the neighbors’ with Rees to make s'mores. S'mores are one of those American things that my kids have yet to be exposed to.

These are the same neighbors who reported back to me that Kadin refused an Oreo. They thought he was deprived. Okay, so I don't buy Oreos, but I could use the excuse that they don't have them in England. Then, when they mentioned that these were orange and black Halloween Oreos, it all sort of made sense. I mean, if they looked like poison and all... So when the kids had asked if they could make s’mores, I said sure!

I find s'mores sickeningly sweet and messy and always not quite perfect. But they bring back fond memories. Not just of camps and campfires. When we first moved to England some friends sent us a care package for the Fourth of July. It had silly stars-and-stripes hats, graham crackers, hershey bars, and marshmallows. We dutifully indulged. S'mores are cozy and comfy and silly and half the fun of them is that they don’t really make sense.

So when Kadin came running home, crying and terrified, I couldn’t think what the problem was. "Mom!" he cried through red and angry eyes, "they're taking marshmallows and…putting them in the fire!" As far as he was concerned this was just a horrifying thing to do. These gentle white fluffy balls and you stick them in an inferno! Injustice! So I went over to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough, there were all these little devils sitting around a gas fire, blithely roasting innocent marshmallows and in the process waving flames around. They were actually HAVING A GOOD TIME! The nerve! Kadin was beside himself with vigilance. A little four-year-old alerting people to overly-brown marshmallows and commenting on and redirecting every wayward flame. Once again, it seemed it was his burden and his burden alone to police the event. Everyone else was so calm and relaxed! Insanity! He would have to redouble his efforts to keep the world safe and orderly. Poor, poor marshmallows...

It took some doing, but eventually, when his head wasn’t buried under my arm, he started to relax a little. [Many a campout later, I can report that he is now able to see the fun in s’mores. It took a bit longer (like several years) for him to finally come to terms with his wind phobia, but what a relief that’s been!]

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