Several blogs have already been written about some of the antics of our sons Ben and Matty as they played quite a bit together while growing up. Our oldest son Erik has escaped any tales surrounding him …until today that is.

 

        Today Erik is a pastor and is a strong, forthright guy who is fairly unflappable in most situations. When he was just a little tyke however, such was not the case. He was easily spooked if you will by many every day occurrences. I can remember he and my husband wrestling on the living room floor when he was about three years old when we discovered one of his greatest fears. My husband was playing and tossing him around and impulsively grabbed a quilt that we kept on the back of the sofa. He then reached forward, grabbed our son and playfully put the quilt over his head completely covering his face and also his upper torso. Our little guy let out a deafening scream that was one of sheer panic. Dad immediately lifted the quilt off and we were staring into the wide, brown eyes of one terrified three year old. This extreme fear of having his head covered by a blanket, a towel, anything at all lasted for many years until he was about eight years old or so.

 

        I also distinctly remember throwing a huge birthday party for him when he turned two. Now when I look back on it, it was one of those crazy, over the top, extravagant bashes that young parents often do for their first born children.We thought that our child was the most extraordinary, unbelievably special child on the planet and thought that everyone else must surely realize that as well! I since have realized that not only is that not true, but that two year olds simply will never remember later on in life that they had a party with fifty guests, three cakes and a hired clown to do tricks. Yes, I actually hired a clown. Everything was going fabulous for the day of the party. Everyone showed up, it was a gorgeous day weather wise, kids were laughing, adults were chatting, we had some nice kids tunes playing and then "IT" happened. What is "IT" you ask? The infamous clown showed up. The clown was great….he was dressed up in a great clown suit, had a funny colorful clown face, and was very friendly. There was just one problem. He had blue hair..or actually a big fuzzy blue wig on. The very second that our two year old son laid eyes on this poor unsuspecting clown, sheer screeches of terror could be heard for a distance of about two blocks. Erik was trembling, crying, and pointing at that blue hair, repeatedly saying “Blue, blue”. We asked the clown to leave and yet still could not calm him down. The party wrapped up about ten minutes later. Blue hair was not the ticket.

 

        Another example of Erik’s quirky fears was the weather itself. He was obsessed with any type of dark sky, ominous looking clouds or strong wind conditions. Basically, if a storm was approaching, he could think of nothing else and would stand as still as can be at the window with a panic stricken expression on his cute little face. I would try to reassure him in every way possible by telling him that storms happened all the time, that we would be fine, that there was nothing to worry about. When he was about four, he somehow learned about tornadoes...either at preschool or on a television documentary or somewhere. Being aware of tornadoes only exacerbated his weather phobia. Each time dark clouds might be approaching, he could be found frozen at the window staring out asking if it was a tornado. So all consuming was his fear that it even brought out some very disturbing and cruel tendencies in both my husband and I. When he misbehaved, instead of giving the traditional threats of a spanking, we sometimes found ourselves saying things like “You do that again, and a tornado just might come this way.” That kid straightened right up. Pretty twisted I know, (no pun intended)  but we have never made many claims of being very normal at the Hastings' house.

 

        The one experience that stands out more than any others in my mind however is one that has been recorded in the family record books as “Petrified at Preschool”. The month of October had just rolled around and all the parents of Erik’s three year old preschool received a notice right around October 1st that the teachers were planning on having a Halloween type party at the very end of the month. The notice explained in great detail how one of the teachers would be dressing up in a ghoulish type costume, with a dark scary looking wig, green coloring on her face and some fake broken teeth. In the weeks leading up to the party however, the school was asking that one parent attend class with their children on the two Fridays before the final Friday of the month which was the day of the party as well as Halloween. The flyer explained that the purpose for this whole process was to show the children over the course of those three consecutive Fridays the different parts of the costume that the teacher would be wearing. The staff wanted each child to hold for themselves and pass around the wig, the face paint, and the fake teeth to clearly show them that none of it was real, that it was just like playing dress up so that none of the children would be scared when they saw the teacher in full costume on party day. The bigger objective of course was to diminish any fear that the kids might have regarding Halloween in general. I clearly remember sitting in a circle on the floor with the other moms as all of our children sat with us and we all passed around the costume parts. The head teacher was saying “See children, here is the black wig that Mrs. Conner will be wearing at the party… do you see how it is not real?  We all answered in unison “Yes Mrs. Miller” She continues-“Do you understand that when you see it on her head on the day of the party that there is nothing to be frightened of because it is not actually her hair? Again, in unison we all dutifully answer again “Yes Mrs. Miller”. She then passed around the pack of green face paint and we all feel it and pass it around and again she says “Do you see how this is just paint children?…that when you see Mrs. Conner on party day with a green face, you do not need to be afraid because it is just the paint, do you all understand that?  In unison, like a well rehearsed chorus we all chimed in “Yes Mrs. Miller” and on and on it went. Quite honestly, by the time she was finally finished with her tedious and painstaking explanation, I wanted to choke Mrs. Miller. On the way out, I remember joking with another mom who was one of my closer friends by leaning over to her and quietly mumbling out of ear shot of Mrs. Miller “I think we all get the point that there is nothing to be scared of ..thank you for that hour long lesson.” I was being facetious on one hand but when I arrived home that day and reflected back on her patience and care for the children, I was actually quite thankful for a teacher who cared so much about her little students. After all, she was just trying to keep them from being afraid even if she did over do it a bit. The day of the big party finally arrived and of course we parents were invited and expected to be there. After some games and refreshments, Mrs. Miller had us all sit down on the floor in a circle once again with our children as the big moment had arrived…Mrs. Conner was going to emerge from the side room in her costume. I remember thinking and praying a little prayer that Mrs. Miller would not once again torture us by going through the entire “fear prevention” ritual that we endured the prior week. Happily, she spared us, although she did give one last reminder to the children by saying in her most reassuring voice “Now remember kids, there is nothing to be afraid of because we know that even if Mrs. Conner looks a little scary when she comes out, it is just dress up isn’t it?”  We all nod our heads up and down with our well worn out response of “Yes Mrs. Miller.” At last, Mrs. Conner complete with wig, green face and fake teeth emerges into view waving with a huge smile on her face. She said “Hello everyone, can you guess..” but she never got to say the words “who I am?” because something pierced the room. It was one of the loudest, most shrill, most intense screams that I had ever heard and it was coming from the kid on my lap…my kid. He was shrieking as he jumped up, turned and ran like a rabbit for the door. I did not even have time to react and we were all frozen. I looked over my shoulder at a terrified blonde little boy running out the door leaving a trail of dust behind him. As I took off after him, I glanced back to see open mouthed classmates, teachers, and parents looking totally dumbfounded. Yes, it was a memorable day.

 

        What amazes me some twenty-seven years later is what a very different person my son the man is from what he was as my son, the boy. Today he is about as far from being a timid and fearful individual as anyone I know. He is an on the go, gregarious, take charge type guy. He is a leader who does not even understand the word timidity and has a confidence that I admire. He loves the Lord and has followed God’s calling to plant a church which is no small undertaking and most definitely an adventure not for the faint of heart. He loves pastoring and being God’s undersheperd to the folks at the church who both he and his sweet wife love dearly. He is a husband and a dad and leads his family day to day in honoring and serving our Savior. He just does not resemble at at all that trembling little guy searching for dark clouds and crying about blue haired clowns.

 

        The lesson here is one of endurance and most importantly encouragement. My desire is to give hope to young parents who may be worried about their child, their child’s progress or even their temperament and personality.  What you perceive to be weaknesses in your little ones today are often little quirks that work themselves out in the natural process of growing up and maturing. I hear parents complain about their children being too “scattered” or “lacking focus” or even being too quiet or shy or any number of things. Often these are traits that are part of them when they are small and seem to disappear as they grow and develop. I want to be careful to not be misinterpreted as saying that there never exists legitimate concerns with our kids when they are very young, because there are some genuine issues at times regarding kids that need to be addressed and dealt with. Let’s just also be careful however to not be so far to the other extreme where we are almost borrowing trouble and creating problems when much of what we are worried about are areas that in time, our children will conquer and get victory over as they get older.

 

     Do I have proof that I am perhaps correct? Yes, I believe that I do….we were recently with our son when some dark clouds came rolling in and do you know what? He didn’t even flinch! Of course, he does run like crazy though every time he sees Ronald McDonald…and he doesn’t even have blue hair !

 

 I love you Erik!