Willem has always gone happily to sleep at night until recently, when he started saying he was scared and asking to leave his lamp on. It took me a few weeks to worm the truth out of him: he'd picked up a spooky joke book at the school library and gotten creeped out by one of the illustrations.
We let him have the extra light for a few nights. We tried talking it out. We prayed together. None of it seemed to help, and, after a few months, I lost my initial sympathy and patience. By then, the nightly discussion of his fears had taken on the flavor of a token ritual. It always took place at least five minutes after he had been tucked into bed with hugs and prayers.
"Mom, I'm scared. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT?"
"No, there isn't. Good night."
It's gone this way for what seems like ages, so I was pleasantly surprised last night when I put Willem to bed and the conversation took a new turn.
"Mom, do you know what I do when I'm feeling scared?"
"No, I don't." Do tell.
"I think of ponies skating on lollipops. Well, not a bunch of lollipops. Just one. It's purple." Then he grimaced. "Do you think that's too girly?"
It wasn't the skating ponies or the lollipops he was worried about, just the color purple. He's been getting some (not unexpected) flak at school for carrying an orchid and lavender-colored lunch box that he picked out himself.
"No, I think it's just right."
And I do.