In our home, the loft overlooks the living room. There is a high ledge where the first story opens up to the second. Tuck climbed over the ledge, letting his feet dangle 16 feet from the floor.
The first time, I responded firmly and with great emotion, helping him to understand how terrifying that was for me, that if he fell from the ceiling he could break bones or even die, how our family is already too small and I do not wish for it to get any smaller.
Strong words, but all true.
I really thought the message hit home. I mean, why would he want to evoke that in me again? Really?
And then last night, my mom was reading a bedtime story to Tyler, when she glanced up to the ceiling. And she saw the bottom of Tucker's feet.
He had done it again. There he sat, carefully perched.
And then came the task of responding with urgency, not panic, getting my attention but not alarming Tucker, thereby causing him to lose his balance.
She said very evenly, "Tricia, Tucker is over the ledge. He is sitting on the top with his feet over the side."
One need not be prone to anxiety to respond to such a scene with shock and horror. Last night was not a pretty night in our home, neither in words nor tone, as he attempted this for the second time.
This morning at breakfast, we revisited the event. I had to make sure he understood.
"Tuck, do you know why you got into so much trouble last night?"
"Yes, because I was being dangerous when I climbed over the wall, except it wasn't dangerous for me because I didn't feel afraid."
"Afraid and danger are not the same thing, Tucker. You can be brave and still be in serious danger."
And suddenly I heard the very I words I was saying to him. I heard them for myself, not just for him.
'Afraid' and 'danger' are not synonymous.
I can think of many times in the last six months when I was afraid, terrified, shaking in terror, but there was really no danger at all.
I can also think of many times in my last three decades when I felt strong and confident, oblivious and unconcerned, although danger lurked closer than I could imagine.
They are not synonyms. They don't always feel the same.
Sometimes you just have to take somebody else's word for it.