Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Counting the Storms

A few nights ago, a huge storm rolled through our area. Lightening continually lit up the sky, thunder constantly rumbled, and the windows and roof echoed from the heavy rain. Heavy thunderstorms are an iconic part of Iowa summer. And I love them.

When I was a small girl, my parents would wake us up in the middle of the night (or at least what felt like the middle of the night to me, but was in reality more like 10 pm) when thunderstorms would come through. They would have a bowl of popcorn and blankets by the window ready. We would eat popcorn while my parents taught up how to count, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, to see how far away the storm was.

Now, when thunderstorms arrive, I get that same comfortable feeling of being next to my parents, wrapped in blankets and counting the time between flash and boom.

As it turns out, my boys don't share these feelings.

As the storm grew into the night, Bug and Monkey grew more anxious. They started whimpering as bedtime approached, fearful of the thought of going to bed as lightening continued to flash and thunder continued to growl. Bedtime came and then went without us being able to calm their fears. Despite the repetition that they were safe and storms were exciting and fun, the anxiety continued.

I then realized that they didn't have the same context as I did.

So I gave up on bedtime. I popped a large bowl of popcorn, wrapped my pajama-ed boys in thick blankets and sat one on each side of me in front of our living room window. The sky was bright with the constant flash of lightening. The windows and house shook from thunder. I showed the boys how to count, 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, gauging the distance of the storm. We ate warm buttered popcorn as we exclaimed over the pattern of bright, branching lightening bolts.

By the time the popcorn was gone, and the time from flash to boom had increased to 5 Mississippi, the boys were sleepy and calmer. We carried them upstairs and tucked them in bed, happy for the time we spent together and a little proud that we had helped calm their fears.

The storm continued throughout the night.

When I woke up the next morning, I found both boys curled up on the floor by my bed. Maybe I wasn't quite as successful as I had originally thought.


  1. I have always loved Thunder storms. Perhaps the boys will grow to love them if you continue this tradition - which is a lovely one.

    I'm impressed that they were on the floor and not on top of you, which is where Punky would be.

  2. I love lightning and thunder and wish we had more of them in my neck of the woods. I get out of bed every time to watch the storms we do get.

    I also love the ritual your parents had so it wouldn't be scary.

  3. Oh, I don't know. I think you were highly successful. Because they ended up in the place where comfort was found during the storm: with their parents! Delurking to say how very much I enjoy reading your blog and that you are part of the reason I am going back to school this fall. If you can become a doctor with a husband and two kids, surely I can obtain an associates degree with two kids and a husband, right?

  4. Calming rituals are good. I remember my mom freaking out during storms. When it came time to teach my kids about storms, I wanted to do the complete opposite of my mom. It worked. Keep up with the ritual. My kids end up in my bed storms or not. lol Thanks for stopping by my blog for SITS day!

  5. This is such a beautiful post! It may take a few more popcorn parties to build calm in the boys but the traditions and memories you're building in the process are priceless!

  6. It's funny how those traditions we had as childhood become our traditions when we become parents. I'm not a mom, just a stepmom, so I don't get to do a lot of these types of things but if I'd had kids I know I would have passed along what my mom always did.

  7. My mom did the same thing with us when we were kids. It mostly worked. But every now and then a particularly vicious storm will have me hiding under the covers and wishing I could still curl up with my mommy.

    These things can sometimes take awhile. Your boys will be looking forward to those storms in a few weeks.

  8. Thank you for pulling up those sweet memories. How I wish you were small and we could do that again! You did just great. Iowa obviously has more than just one storm to re-inforce the calm and enjoyment of our planet's weather.