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I’m Phobic Of My Son Inheriting My Storm Phobia

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As I type this, there’s a tornado watch issued for southern Ontario, including Toronto, where I live, and I am literally shitting over it. You see, some time in my nearly four decades on this planet, I’ve developed a phobia of storms. So when it’s slightly gray outside and weather forecasters call for “risk of thunderstorm,” my stomach turns and I start to feel physically ill. The other day, I popped an Ativan just to deal.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I have this phobia, though that’s exactly what it is: an extreme or irrational fear (mine entails both). I’m planning on going for hypnotherapy to get over this fear – mostly so that my husband won’t divorce me – but, in the meantime, it’s been a challenge to keep it together in front of my kids while simultaneously shaking and hyperventilating and trying to determine if a glass of wine would make things better or worse.

A couple of summers ago, when my second child was maybe seven weeks old, we had a major storm in Toronto. By my standards, basic thunder and lightning constitutes a “major storm” but, in this case, it truly was a big one. Before our power went out, the local news station recommended that people take shelter in their basements because of a tornado threat (part of a shopping-mall roof did eventually blow off, though that was a good 20 or so miles from where I live).

Anyway, my husband was out of town when this all went down, and so I was at home alone with the two kids, who at the time were three and a half and “newborn.” My older was one was having a bath when the power went out and, needless to say, I lost it on the inside but realized that I had to keep it together for the sake of my children. (If this all sounds very dramatic for a mere power outage, then welcome to my brain.)

That’s when I realized I needed to be an adult and, well, I suddenly turned into Mother Of The Year. You see, my son always picks up on my vibe, as is the case with most children, and so if he sees me freaking out, he himself will freak out. Which is why I took a deep breath, scooped up my kids, grabbed a giant flashlight, some snacks, and headed to the basement.

“We’re having a storm party!” I exclaimed to my three-and-a-half-year-old, who I could tell wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I handed out snacks, lit some candles, and helped my son build a fort while the baby gurgled and flailed his legs in the corner. We made up stories, ran around in circles, cuddled. I’d excuse myself every 10 minutes or so to use the bathroom or to call my sister and tell her I was going to pass out and die. But, for the most part, I kept it together.

Then the power came back on and so we had a little dance party, ate some more, told silly jokes. The sky cleared up and all was calm again. I put my kids to bed and turned on the TV in search of Sex and the City reruns (that can be oddly calming). I was still a little shaky and, truth be told, I probably dropped around five pounds. But I was proud of myself for not scaring my son. It might not sound like a big deal to a regular person but, trust me, when you have a phobia, it’s a major feat being a good parent when you think the world is going to end.

My biggest concern throughout it all was the idea of passing on my phobia to my child. But now, two years later, every time there’s even a tad of rain, my boy perks up and asks, all wide-eyed, “Can we have a storm party, Mama?!” He’s disappointed when I tell him no. It’s like he can’t wait for the next big storm to appear so that he can relive that stay-up-past-bedtime-and-eat-all-you-want basement fest.

(Photo: John Foxx)