My daughters are afraid of things that are … scary. There, I’ve said it. I’ve completely failed to desensitize them to all of the horror that the entertainment media is so eager to show them.
They refuse to walk down the dark, narrow hallways at the movie theater because on previous such treks they have glimpsed posters of people on fire and vampires with blood dripping from their mouths. For this, they’ve been called “timid.” At Disneyland, they prefer the carousel to the Tower of Terror, causing some to question their “willingness to try new things.” Perhaps my kids are just too literal–after all, the word “Terror” is in the title. Daughter #1 once corrected an adult who tried to placate her fear of war by telling her that the only modern wars are being fought in other countries, far away from the United States. Daughter #1 knows better: her Mama lost a cousin in the Twin Towers, and her Daddy travels to New York too often for her liking. Daughter #2’s radar for evil is so finely tuned that she actually leaves the vicinity of the TV when Curious George starts to misbehave. She knows that the Man in the Yellow Hat is not George’s father, but she’s convinced the fourth commandment applies anyway.
When did fearlessness become the measure of a child? What about prudence and rationality?
Many around me subscribe to the idea that a well-rounded child will try anything once, and that her failure to do so foreshadows a narrow life. I am teaching mine that they don’t have to do anything that seems evil or unnatural. I tell them that under normal circumstances they control what their eyes see and what their ears hear, and as a result I have seen them consistently refuse to be assaulted by the negative visual and auditory stimuli that many take for granted. I am teaching them that evil is aberrant–that we are sinners, but that we were made for good, not bad. And I do this while the entertainment media culture tries repeatedly to teach them that evil is commonplace, unavoidable, and nothing to get upset about.
In addition to teaching my children about the dangers of evil, I know that another parenting goal must be to instill in their hearts these words that come directly from the mouth of Christ: Be not afraid. But for now, we are focusing on the recognition of evil, which must become second nature in order to triumph over it. Right now, they recognize evil through their fear, and they will go to great lengths to avoid it. I don’t call that “too timid”. I call that step one.
Copyright 2013 Sharon Rayner