Surviving the storm with my son

In the distance, the thunder rumbles, rolling toward us on the waves of the gathering dark clouds.

A bolt of lightning slices through the sky, helping to open the sky, which pours down rain and wind.

For most, this is a typical spring storm in Arkansas. But for my son, it represents the end of the world. It’s his darkest fear, coming to visit . . . again. clouds 1

And each visit, in his mind, will most assuredly mean death and destruction. And even if he does survive this storm, it will only mean the next will be even worse.

First you should understand that we were fortunate. We were not part of the areas that were so badly devastated by the tornadoes in Arkansas this past weekend. Those were near the central part of the state. We live in the south.

But you should also understand that for us, my family, that every cloud is a potential storm. And every potential storm can produce a potential tornado.

At least that’s possible in my son’s mind.

You see, my son has somehow developed a phobia about storms.

It’s difficult to see someone you love suffer from so much fear. And needless fear at that. He has never been in a storm worse than one that contains some thunder and lightning. Maybe a little hail.

But every time the slightest of dark clouds appears in the sky, we have an emergency situation on our hands at my house.

In fact, in starts days in advance. If he sees that the 10-day weather forecast calls for even the slightest/slimmest/most remotest of possibility of a storm, he will start to obsess over it until the prescribed day.

My son is smart. Very smart. Much smarter than I am. And I’m sure some day he’ll have a brilliant career that will take advantage of his many talents.

He makes all A’s in school, and he loves to play chess. And he often uses words that I either don’t use, or, even worse, don’t know.

But for all his smarts and brains and logic, he either can’t, or won’t, grasp the fact that all his worries were for nothing.

This past storm brought with it something I hadn’t seen before. He begged me to take him to south Louisiana – a place was well outside the area where storms were predicted to hit.

Begging. On his knees, crying, and pleading with me to take him away. To take him on a trip that was a good six hours away.

This time he knew, HE KNEW, that we were going to be engulfed by the fierce winds of a tornado. And he cried over and over that he didn’t want to die.

As a parent, what can you do? You try talking logically. Calmly. Not so calmly.

You try showing evidence. The weather forecast. The radar that shows there are no storms in your area. Or in any area within 100 miles of your area.

You try hugging him. Holding him. You contemplate strangling him.

It’s my job as a parent to be patient. To continue loving him.

But how do you fight an enemy that isn’t real? How do you convince your child that his fear is based on nothing.

My son’s fears would ebb and flow as storm and tornado watches and warnings were issued throughout the day.

As the day came to an end, my patience long gone, our storms appeared to be over for the day. My son was exhausted from the stress that he had endured throughout the day. I was too.

Again, though, what can you do? Before we went to bed, I pointed out to my son (I’ve lost track how many times I’ve done this) that he could now see that all his worry and fear and hand-wringing had been for nothing.

But instead of strangling him as I put him in bed, I put my arm around him and held him close. Hugged him tight.

Knowing that there were be more storms for my son to face in life. And hoping that I could always be there to help guide him through. Even if I wasn’t sure how to do it myself.


  9 comments for “Surviving the storm with my son

  1. nikkiharvey
    April 30, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Maybe you could arrange to take him to meet a scientist who could explain to him how the forecast works and how they know they isn’t going to be a tornado. I don’t know whether it would be possible to arrange something like that, but maybe a more complete explanation would help him to trust the forecast

    • April 30, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      You won’t believe this, but I’ve actually been talking to a science teacher about that very thing. Thank you for the suggestion.
      And thank you for reading.

      • nikkiharvey
        April 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm

        Great minds think alike 🙂

  2. April 30, 2014 at 10:04 am

    awe thats so sad, maybe its doubly bad for him because it is something he feels there is no control over much like what happened to his mother? That really tugged at my heart strings…that is something i would have to think about re suggestions to help, maybe hypnotherapy, i found that invaluable for my horrible fear of needles it stops the habitual responses and you get a sense of calm when you really think you would react otherwise x

    • April 30, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      Yeah, that could be it. I’m really not sure what the problem is. I keep hoping he’ll outgrow it.
      How have you been?

      • May 1, 2014 at 5:22 am

        I am good, went on holiday to Devon, stayed by the sand dunes, was fab. I was nervous about the car drive, but I dosed up and made it hehe…one child wiped out on his skateboard first day so was spent at hospital, typical isnt it? Actually he was absolutely fine, just bruised his hand, has a low pain threshold like me I think. So lots of walking, some sunshine which was fab, now back home, seriously trying to get some work from home, which is diiiiificult! Thanks for asking x

  3. May 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I am so sorry your son has such terrifying episodes. I can’t help but wonder if there’s some residual emotional response to your wife’s death. I’m no expert, but there are aspects of an impending storm that could mimic what he felt during the months leading up to her loss, and feeling like he couldn’t outrun it. Logic and emotions, as we know, don’t always co-operate with each other. Please keep us posted as you seek ways to help your son.

  4. Trysta
    February 5, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Have you ever considered that he can actually “feel” the vibrations of the storm? Often children with autism or Ausberger’s (sp?) can be sensitive in other areas. His brilliant, inquisitive mind is a sign mind that he thinks in a different level. Not a bad thing at all. He sees the world different and maybe he feels it different as well. Like a person who is color blind, others see in color. And there are a few who claim to see numbers and letters in color that are black and white to us. So maybe he can actually “feel” the impending storm.
    My son is autistic, as we have discussed. He is sensitive to sounds and vibrations. It has gotten better. But a simple basketball game with the buzzer, a football game with loud fans who blow their noisy horns, it even fireworks far up in the sky, all resounded as a scream in his ear. My son covers his ears and is sometimes teary until the noise stops. And sometimes the storms used to do the same.
    I know above others mentioned talking to a scientist. Learning what makes a storm, why it storms, predictions, weather cycles all in much more detail than the tiny bit they give in school COULD help. Knowing your fears inside and out are always a good thing, like keeping your enemies close so you can see what they are doing. Perhaps he becomes a weather scientist to help predict bad weather to save lives one day. I am curious to see how God uses this special son of yours in the future.

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