Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Irrational Fears III: The Boo-Boo
When a toddler becomes fearful of an object, the simplest thing usually is to make it disappear for a while. However, what does one do when she is afraid of her own body?
Last month, my two-and-a-half-year-old tripped on her way into church. I didn’t know it until we got home, but there was a tiny abrasion on her knee underneath her stockings. She knew it was there, and held onto her stockings for dear life, refusing to let me take them off. “Boo boo!” she cried.
Finally I got them off. “It’s just a little boo boo,” I reassured her, “It’ll be gone soon.” She refused to have it covered with a bandage. To her, bandages serve to remind her there is a boo-boo. I think she even thinks a bandage is part of the boo-boo. She felt better when I had it covered with pants.
For a whole week, I had problems every time I had to change her. She was dreadfully afraid of having her pants taken off. She didn’t want to see her boo-boo, small as it was. When she needed a bath, she covered it with a washcloth.
The second week, it had faded for the most part, but she knew the skin was not intact. Now she would inspect it carefully, note that it was still there, and beg for it to be covered up again.
Finally, at the end of the second week, the remains of it came off in the bath. “Look,” I said, “the boo boo is really gone now.”
She looked at it and was completely relieved. The next day, she allowed me to dress her in stockings for church again.
This whole episode made me think that, on a really fundamental level, infants understand that their bodies are holy. God made them perfect, and anything less than that is just not acceptable. As adults, most of us have long ago given up on perfection, and accept the breaking down of our bodies as inevitable. We all need to be reminded from time to time of what my little one seems to already know in her heart: that we are all vessels of the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
I Corinthians 3:16-17