Just as the plane began to rattle, I slipped my hand under his four-year-old palm and interlaced those sweet fingers with mine. I didn’t want my son to be afraid of the turbulence the pilot predicted before take-off. I wanted my son to know that no matter what, I was there with him.
My heart started racing as the plane continued bumping through the air. My mind immediately recalling the words of the old hymn…
When peace like a river, attendeth my way… whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say…. it is well, it is well with my soul.
I realized I couldn’t remember all the lyrics, and some of the ones I did weren’t really fitting the situation at hand, or so I thought. I was annoyed at myself for being so stereotypical in my song choice, and not being able to bring to mind ANY song from the last decade. There are so many other good songs!
Somewhere in the midst of my self-mocking, my son let go of my hand to adjust the iPad in his lap. And he didn’t return his hand to mine. My pulse-pounding, nervous thoughts loud in my head, the buzzing plane filled with quiet people — people I imagine holding their breath as I was….and my son starts to giggle. The giggles turn more boisterous. I opened my eyes again to see my child completely enthralled with the funny business on his iPad, and completely oblivious or just unbothered by the bumpy plane ride. And at that moment, I realized I needed to protect my kid from ME.
Plane rides used to make me pretty nervous. Not nervous enough to avoid them altogether, since my statistics-driven husband always reminds me that I’m more likely to die in a car accident than in a plane crash. Somehow that’s comforting? But also, the airplane is mighty convenient when you live multiple states away from most of your family. But at every take-off, I would feel panic-stricken, realizing I was out of control of my life at that moment. And that’s the joke, right? We’re never in control. I’d pray for protection, and release the fear to make way for peace. Peace that if I go today, I go today. Thank you, God, for this wonderful earthly life I’ve been given.
But when my husband and I had to take four international plane rides across huge open seas to adopt our son from South Korea, those 14-hour plane rides did wonders for desensitizing me to planes and their bumps along the way. I hadn’t experienced any fear on airplanes since our son came home two years ago. Until, of course, this day that I grabbed my son’s hand to “keep him calm”.
My mind was back in that fearful place again…thinking about 9/11, and what the people in that plane may have experienced. I was thinking about the planes I’ve heard of landing in rivers, recounting details of the life vests and procedures. My generation on up know about the terror that has taken place on airplanes. We know the reasons for all the strict airport security rules…for the most part. We know that sometimes things go very wrong.
Yet, it felt so profound to realize right then and there that my child at four years old is oblivious to all this bad. He has no fear of stepping into an airplane. He has no concept of the things that could go very wrong. He felt no need to hold my hand again after adjusting his iPad. He didn’t even look up at me after the plane dipped to communicate that it felt scary.
And I determined during that flight, that I would protect his innocence (and his trust in the outrageousness of metal tubes flying in the sky) for as long as possible. I resolved to never let my child see my fear on a plane. Someday he will have his own world news to grapple with. Someday he’ll learn more about the potential bad, but not this day. Not because his mom taught him by example to be afraid. I want to protect him from myself and my fears for as long as I can.
And someday, he’ll learn about this day when his trust, peace, and JOY in the midst of a rough moment spoke to me and challenged me so deeply. I can detach from the chaos, hold to peace, and not be shaken from the circumstances around me. I can do it if my four-year-old can do it.