by Sandra Dodd

I used to have a four year old. Well, I've had three of them, but on February 2, 1991, four-year-old Kirby came and asked me for a bandaid because his finger had started hurting all by itself. On the second joint there was a little red welt. I asked if he had burned it, and he said no. I asked if maybe an ant or a spider had bitten him, and he said no. I talked a little bit about that, and he said "If it might be a little tiny monster, I quit."

I remember having had that "I quit" feeling when I got my first paper cut at the age of five. My Aunt Mona had just given me a big Bible-story book. I was sitting at my granny's kitchen table in Fort Worth, Texas. Thrilled to be the owner of a new book, I opened it expecting glory and wonder and one of the first few pages cut my finger. What a shock to learn that things I’d thought were really safe before that could make me hurt and bleed—I figured then if books were dangerous, the whole world was a much more dangerous place than I was comfortable being in. Here I still am, though, and I was right.

Danger isn't very comfortable. There are roller-coaster moments, and daring-saves moments. There are social-stand-taking moments and belief-defending moments. Those are times we make a conscious (even if hasty) decision to participate. Over and around self-imposed danger there are tiny monsters.

Paper cuts and spider bites are nothing compared to fear and doubt. When someone says, "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" that can hurt for a month or a year. In Disney's "Hercules," Phil rhymes "disappointment" with "pain for which there ain't no ointment." Sometimes people can disappoint us.

Find encouragement, whether it is from friends, relatives, inspirational books, faith, online bulletin boards, or the smiles of the children in your life. Avoid tiny monsters. Sometimes they will find you, but there's no sense setting your picnic on an ant bed. If someone has repeatedly caused you pain and isn't responding to requests to stop, take a little longer getting back with them next time. Don't stay as long once you get there.

Don't let fear and doubt make you quit. If you're walking up a trail and there's a big rock in the way, do you just turn around and go home? Go around it. Climb over it. Move it. Sit on it and rest. The rock isn't the trail. The rock isn't the destination. It's just a rock. On that hike, it was an unforeseen little monster.

I have something of a monster antidote: breathing. Breathe deeply and calmly. Get oxygen into that part of you that fears the tiny monsters. Once you master calming your hurts and fears (or at least calming the adrenaline that would make you lash out), you'll have time to think about how to deal with them rationally and sweetly and compassionately.

Parents would like to protect their children from all tiny monsters, but it can't be done. One of the greatest gifts you might give your child, your family and yourself is to learn to set an example of how to deal with surprise wounds and doubts, and to coach your children through their encounters with fear and disappointment with calming touch, cleansing breath, and shared hope.

We can't have safety but we can have peace and joy despite the tiny monsters.

(This article appeared in Enchanted Families in July 1999,
and in the Kootenay Home Educators newsletter, Winter 1999,
and is the property of Sandra Dodd, the author)

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