6 is an age of irrational fear. A couple of weeks ago, Finn was seized by a strong and sudden fear of poison berries. He was up late at night, crying. Logic didn’t work, praying didn’t work. We were heading into hour 3 of negotiation.
Finally, near midnight, I took him by the hand and said “You don’t get to be afraid of this. Fear isn’t going to drive you. We’re going berry picking.”
“Right now? But it’s nighttime. And I should’ve been to sleep hours ago.”
We put on shoes while half-dressed in our pajamas, found a flashlight and went out to look at poison berries and forage for black berries. He trembled, claiming he was cold on the balmy summer night. He was afraid. The cicadas shouted from the woods around our house. I flashed a light on the Chinese Holly in our front yard, the small tan berries turn bright red near Christmas. I use them for decoration. “These will make you sick, would you eat these?”
“No, of course not. I know better.”
We plowed toward the pond behind our house that’s ringed with wild blackberry bushes, the bull frogs chorused to one another. We scraped on the thorny brambles, grasping for wild blackberries. I found one and held it in front of his eyes.
“You know that we can eat blackberries. We just picked it. Eat it.”
He gulped it obediently. Freshpicked blackberries are his favorite.
“Are you sick?”
"Are you scared of poison berries?”
“No. I know better.”
His body relaxed and we walked home hand in hand home.
“You’re a warrior, little buddy. You just fought a battle against a big fear. What happens in all your stories when a warrior wins a battle and has made the world safe again?”
“And so will you, little warrior.” He looked up at the stars in the sky, took a deep breath, closed his eyes, a firefly flickered near his eyes when he opened them, he tried to catch it. Then he marched straight to bed.
The only way to deal with fear is to face it, identify it, and learn how to handle it. Even if you have to face it half-naked in the middle of the night. Don’t be afraid. Find someone who makes you brave, let them tow you along by the hand to win battles and find wonders.