Scattered throughout our lives are opportunities to witness magical moments. Aha moments. Moments filled with such tenderness we are sure to remember them for many years to come. This was one of those moments.
I looked down the hall to see our newest addition, a precious toddler, standing right in front of a wall and just staring at it. He swiped his hand across the wall, desperately trying to brush something away. At first I thought there was a small spider or something else that held his attention. He turned to me and let out a fearful little cry. Then he came running into my arms, which is the moment I saw what he had witnessed: his own shadow.
The bright light shining from the kitchen down a short, dark hallway created the perfect setting for making shadows. We walked over together and sat on the floor in front of that wall. He immediately scooted onto my lap, still afraid of the dark images directly in front of him. Images he couldn’t seem to touch or wipe away. I began talking in a soothing voice about light and shadows, and ‘everything is okay.’ I showed him it was safe. Of course he’s too young to understand the scientific concepts of light as energy and the opaqueness of objects, but a child is never too young to learn: This can’t hurt you; you are okay.
Perhaps the reason this experience hit me so hard is that it serves as a critical reminder to so many aspects of parenting, particularly foster parenting:
Our job as parents is to understand the fears faced by our children and reassure them however we can. No matter the age of the child or young adult, some of their fears can be explained away logically, and some can’t. Some fears are deeply embedded after years of abuse or neglect. Oftentimes our job is to teach them the skills needed for facing fears in the future by developing healthy coping skills. We can’t ever know the future until we live it, but we can alleviate a lot of fears by reminding children they are safe in our homes. Will you join me in the pledges listed above, or consider making a few of your own?
Back in the hallway with dark shadows, this boy and I learned to dance with our shadows. We barked at dog-shaped shadows, we fluttered around with butterfly shadows, and we watched in awe as our shadows mimicked our head jiggles and toe wiggles. And perhaps most importantly, we learned that when we wave to our shadow, he always waves back, which makes him a friend for life.