L- and I were eating lunch. I love watching her sit at my mom's kitchen table. The sun comes in through the window and plays off the frizzy hairs on the top of her head, and her tiny little legs don't quite reach the floor yet, so they dance mid-air to no tune in particular. It's mesmerizing, and I found myself lost in the beauty of this child of mine.
"Mom?" Her voice startled me out of my daydreaming, but even more unsettling was the way that she seemed just as startled.
"Mommy," She started again, with more confidence. "What's an agoraphobe?" she asked, with only slight hesitation, afraid maybe of mispronunciation or possibly more accurately, hesitant to get answers that could blow her four-year-old mind.
"That's a big word for such a little girl," I said, grabbing a hold of her hand, and okay, totally symbolically grabbing a hold of the childhood innocence that seemed to be quickly slipping through my fingers, as my daughter became more aware that mommy might be classified under a big word.
"Don't patronize me, mommy," was her response, followed by a deep, concerning stare over the top of her glasses. I dropped her hand.
"Agoraphobe," I said, straightening my posture, intimidated by the big, blue eyes that only moments earlier were glazed with tears due to a meltdown over a lost stuffed puppy. "I suppose you mean 'someone who is afraid of the outdoors'. Where did you hear that word?"
"I think maybe you're an agoraphobe, mommy. We never go outside without daddy or grandma, and when we do, you get panic attacks, or at least pretty flustered, and I think you're afraid of something outside, but even you don't know what it is."
I could only stare blankly, as she continued.
"Why don't you like getting out of the house? I mean, I know you SAY you like getting out of the house, but whenever an offer comes up, you make up excuses, or you spend hours stressing about it. And you don't really like it when I go anywhere or do anything. You're afraid of everything and everyone, and mommy, it's a great big world out there, and sometimes bad things happen, but you can't sit in your house and observe it from your television set or computer screen. You have to live life with all of your senses. You have to feel the wind blow on your cheeks, even if it means you get dirt in your eyes. You have to smell the orange blossoms, even if it means your nose gets runny later. You have to walk on something other than carpet, even if it means you slip and cut your knee on a rock. And more importantly, you have to let us do those things too."
"But...." But she didn't let me continue.
"Mommy, you guard our names from the world. I am not L-. I am Lennon. You gave me that name because you admired a man who was not afraid of living his life. Bad things happened to him, but he's not remembered for that day in December. He's remembered for the love he spread. Do you think he could have spread all that love from inside his house?"
"Well, actually Len, I know you're too young to know about it, but he did this thing called a Bed-In for Peace, and...."
"Mommy, don't be smart with me."
"Sorry," I said. And I meant it. I was sorry. And as she continued telling me about all of the beautiful things she was missing out on, because of MY fears, and how someday those fears could one day transfer on to her or Harrison, I realized I had been making a very big mistake.
My kids are my world, but it isn't fair to make me their world. They need the chance to see it all, and to get out there and experience things, and the only way that's going to happen is if I open the door.
Lennon, Harrison, and I are going for a walk as soon as Harrison wakes up from his nap. I already have my shoes on, and I'm writing this blog post to hold myself accountable.
Sometimes it takes a made-up conversation to get yourself out of your brain, and into reality.