We turned towards home as I pushed the double jogger over a wooden bridge that connects park to neighborhood—and then there it was in the middle of the road, all red and gross and smushed.
A dead squirrel.
I broke into a brisk jog, hoping your curious eyes wouldn’t see it, but it was too late.
“Momma, where was the squirrel’s head. I didn’t see it’s head!” you asked in a panic.
“Baby, don’t worry. You just didn’t see it because we hurried by so quickly.”
“Momma, I have a question.”
“When I die, will I still have a head?”
Two hours and two episodes of My Little Pony later, I tucked you into bed, poured a glass of wine, and went on with my nightly routine, thinking the squirrel incident was long forgotten.
I was wrong. I knew this as soon as I heard the door to your pink princess room creak open and your voice whimper softly.
“Mama, I’m scared.”
“Back to bed, Ellie.”
“But—but—Mommy, I can’t sleep.”
Taking your hand, I guided you back to your room.
“Ellie, what are you afraid of?”
You climbed into bed, spiral curls already a wild mess. I brushed a ringlet away from your eyes and looked at you. Really looked.
“Are you afraid of the squirrel?”
Your lip quivered. “I don’t like dead things, Mommy. They’re scary.”
“But you’re a brave girl, Ellie.”
A tear broke through the barrier, and then another. “N-n-o, I’m n-a-ah-t.”
“Ellie, brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you fight the scariness away. It means doing something, even if you have to do it scared.”
In response, you gave me that knowing head nod, the one that shows you’re really listening. We said a prayer—in which you sincerely asked God to let you keep your head—then you took a deep breath and sank into your pillow. You were asleep in ten minutes.
That night was over a year ago. So far in your life, you’ve only been seriously afraid of four things—puppets, dead squirrels, brain monsters (from A Wrinkle in Time), and zombies. We’re dealing with the zombies right now.
Your spirit tends to be bold and fearless, Ellie, which is why episodes of fear stand out as unique. But the fact is that sometimes we’re all a little scared, maybe even a lot scared. And that’s alright.
I’m a little scared about starting this blog, about sharing my words and our family with the world. So right now, I’m fighting the scariness away. I’m saying a prayer, trusting in God, taking a deep breath, and doing something. I’m writing the first post.
And that just made me feel a little braver.