Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Peter was terrified

Fear motivates us to engage in negative behaviors. It can come from many sources. We learn fear from our environment. Other people teach us fear, and sometimes it can come from the well intentioned but thoughtless efforts of parents. In any of the cases it then becomes an agreement that we have with ourselves; the agreement to be afraid of certain things. The following short story is fiction, but I based it on a real conversation that I overheard between a mother and father.
Peter was terrified. He was 9 years old today.

His Mom was driving the car. That seemed to be the safest thing about this, but still it was very scary.

His dad had told him that his mom used to do this when he was very little. But being the smarter of the two, he had told her not to do it.

This created a huge fight between his mom and his dad. At least that is what his dad had told him. His mom had said it wasn’t that dangerous. His dad had told his mom to grow up and live in the real world. Somehow after all the fighting and yelling it was decided that it truly was very dangerous until he was nine. His granny in Chicago had told him the story about the yelling.

It had to be dangerous, because here on his 9th birthday, he was shaking and wondering how it would all turn out. He felt a little sick to his stomach. It felt like the time his dad had told him that the real world was filled with all sorts of bad and stupid people. How would he know the difference between the good and bad people? His mom wasn’t really scared like that; she was friendly to most people. All the people seemed to really like her too, but dad had said she wasn’t always very smart about things.

The day was bright and sunny. Lots of days at home are like this Peter thought. The people on the street seemed nice enough to him. He even waved at a policeman that waved back.

Trying with all his might, he tried to not be afraid. Riding inside a car like this and being in St. Louis at the same time just couldn’t be safe. His brain kept thinking this over and over and he couldn’t make it stop. How could it be safe? If it was too dangerous when he was 4 or 8 wouldn’t it still be dangerous now?

He felt safe with his mom though. She never seemed to be afraid of things. She was pointing out all the things he had never seen before. There was the big stadium where the Cardinals played! There was the zoo over there! It seemed like St. Louis was where the most fun things were. Still, it had to be dangerous because you shouldn’t ride in a car there until you are nine.

Peter wasn’t sure why it was safe at nine. It’s just what his mom and dad had agreed on. It involved a lot of yelling. He knew that, because his Granny had told him that his dad had won out. She said his mom had yelled “well just when is it safe to ride in a car in St.Louis?” His dad yelled back at her, “9 years old is OK, don’t you even live in the real world?”

Peter noticed for the first time there were other kids in cars. This made him feel less sick to his stomach. He noticed too that a lot of them were very small and young looking for 9 years old.

He had never realized he was bigger than other 9 year olds. Maybe it was just because they were inside a car and it just made them look small. They didn’t look afraid either. What was wrong with them?

Didn’t they live in the real world?

1 comment:

hh said...

what a powerful story! I enjoyed it very much and liked reading it out loud. I like how it is a story from a child's perspective, giving description of how a child makes sense of the world.

I was still unsure by the second paragraph what he was the scary thing. But I suppose you did that to build curiosity. I think it is effective. At first, I was wondering if I had missed something because you started talking about IT without telling us what IT was.
But I don't think it takes away from the story.

Just my 2 cents..
thanks for your comment on my site... I enjoy that you are taking the time to comment on these very important issues that affect everyone. I'm thoroughly amused.