My bike ride into the office yesterday morning was a lovely experience. Sunny, not too warm, relatively little traffic. I got to do it a bike that’s evolved into the perfect urban machine: light, fast, smooth. I arrived at work with a smile on my face.
Coming home was an entirely different matter. The radar picture showed an angry line of huge thunderstorms rolling into the region, one behind the other. I shrugged and figured I’d be able to make it home before the worst hit. We do, after all, live in the thunderstorm capital of the continent, and I’ve seen and ridden through this kind of thing before (it builds character, I think.) So against the protests of my colleagues and multiple offers to bring both me and my bike home, I politely thanked them and said I’d be fine.
As I headed out of the building with my bike, two things happened:
The rain changed from a steady drizzle to a dump that turned the parking lot into a very large wading pool. Thoughts of Noah’s Ark came to mind.
My cell phone rang. Our kids told my wife that they were worried about me, and wanted to talk to me before I left the office. Here’s the discussion:
Noah (5 years-old): Hi Daddy. Is it raining there?
Me: Yes. Lots and lots of rain.
Noah: It’s raining here, too. And thundering. And lightning. I don’t want you to die.
Various little voices in the background: Yeah, we don’t want lightning to hit you. Don’t ride your bike.
Well, it’s one thing to get wet on the way home. It’s quite another to get fried. And it’s infinitely worse when your kids worry that their Dad could get hurt. So I accepted my wife’s offer to come and get me in the van.
The plot thickens
The rain, wind and electrical activity continued to intensify while I waited. By the time she got there, it was as bad as it’s been this year. I got soaked in the 10 seconds it took me to sprint from the front door to the car.
The drive home was a white-knuckled one for us all. The boys were afraid of the lightning. Noah wished the rain would be quieter and asked me to close the shade on the moonroof to keep the bright lights from bothering his eyes. Dahlia thought it was pretty, but admitted she, too, was a little scared.
I watched too many lightning hits – some frighteningly close to us – and scanned for trees and other debris out of fear that something big and heavy would fall on us. As I did so, I heard myself and my wife saying reassuring things to the munchkins. Which got me thinking...
We spoke in calm, parent-sounding voices, sounding just like my parents did years ago when the roof on the house sprang a massive leak during a huge rainstorm. I remember water cascading down the walls and pouring into the basement, but my parents reassured us everything would be fine despite our kid-fears that the whole house would collapse in a sodden heap.
They must have been scared then, but they sure didn’t sound it. I wondered if I, too, was successfully masking my fear as I tried to let them know we were all perfectly safe in our wheeled cocoon.
I wondered if it was acceptable for parents to be afraid. Now that the storm has passed and all that’s left is a very damp lawn and some excitedly-discussed stories over breakfast, I’m not sure I have the answer.
Your turn: Is it OK for parents to be afraid? What about showing it in front of their kids? What do you do to shield them?