Tuesday, 10 September 2013


For last night’s lesson, The Girl and I were talking about the Ancient Greeks.

“Is it true that all the athletes in the original Olympics were naked?” she asked.

It’s true, I said – they did all their exercising naked. “Gymnos” means nude, so a gymnasium was a place to be nude. A pine tree is a “gymnosperm,” because the seeds are not clothed by any fruit.

The Girl had a distant look on her face.  

You’re not really concentrating tonight, honey, I said.

“I just can’t tonight, Daddy,” she said. “I’ve been worrying.”

What do you worry about? I asked, and she talked about her fears a bit. I assured her that none of her fears are likely happen. If – and this is a very small chance – some tragedy ever did happen, you won’t be any more prepared because you worried. Worrying doesn’t help.

“So how do I stop?” she said.

Well, I said, you remind yourself that no tragedy is making you worry, because the tragedy will probably never happen, and it certainly hasn’t happened yet. It’s you that’s making yourself worry, and it’s only you that can make yourself stop.You can know that the best that can happen is that you’ll be okay, and if something very bad happens, you’ll probably still be okay.

“I know,” she said. “But I still feel it.”

And when all those things fail, I said, just think about all the athletes competing in the Olympics, and then picture them all naked.

She laughed. “The pole vaults would be interesting,” she said.

Just think of the figure skating, I said. Or the luge.

Photo: The Girl at the National Gallery in Dublin.


Anonymous said...

here's an old adage that might help her a little bit: "worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair; it might give you something to do, but it's not going to get you anywhere."

That said, you are an awesome dad and you did the best thing a parent can do: you listened and empathized. And you validated her experience, which precious few adults manage to do. The only additional advice I can think to offer is to think together about things that *are* in her sphere of influence that she can do to help, such as sending letters or volunteering. It may seem small, but that sense of agency and "I did what I could" is very important to young girls.

But this is a great sign of new systems coming online in her brain that can grasp abstracts better. It can be overwhelming at times, but it's really fun to watch.

Anubis Bard said...

Worrying is a tough one. I think for many of us who have children and who feel that our society is careening in the wrong direction - it still feels wrong to bring the child too strongly into that. Yet it also feels wrong to leave them vulnerable to the happy delusions of our time.

Rowan Badger said...

Well, now I'm gonna spend the rest of the day being faintly traumatized by Naked Luge.

You're a good father, because you listen and create space for your daughter to share with you. I'm glad The Girl has you in her life. *hugs*