Sometimes little folks need help facing their cabin fears.

By Christy Heitger-Ewing

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Sitting on the dock, I enthusiastically encouraged my 4-year-old son: “Go ahead, jump in!”

With his eyebrows furrowed, he shook his head vehemently. “Noooo,” Trevyn said, slowly backing away from the edge of the dock.

“I don’t get it. You’ve been dying to come to the lake so you could go swimming,” I said. “What are you waiting for?”

“The crayfish will get me!” he whimpered.

The day before, Ellie the neighbor girl was diving beneath our dock and emerged with a bluish-gray crayfish between her fingers. She clipped the cute crustacean to her earlobe and shook her head back and forth, giggling.

Trevyn leaned in to study the creature’s coloring and tiny pinchers as it dangled in the breeze. He even got the nerve to touch it for a millisecond. During dinner, however, he wouldn’t stop talking about how the crayfish were going to attack his toes the next time he got into the lake.

I explained how they were way more afraid of us than we are of them. But he wouldn’t hear of it.

Though I was mildly amused at this silly fear, the cabin was a haven for playing in and on the water, so I had to find a way to get my boy back into his beloved lake.

That evening, while my 10-year-old son Kyler helped me gather twigs for a campfire, I asked him for suggestions for easing Trevyn’s crayfish worries.

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A man of few words, Kyler responded confidently, “I’m on it, Mom.”

As our family gathered round the fire pit, we each slid a marshmallow onto our roasting sticks and carefully positioned them over the orange embers.

I couldn’t help noticing that Kyler and Trevyn had their heads together, whispering and snickering. Then Trevyn’s eyes grew wide and he blurted out, “Reeeeally?”

Kyler nodded as he carefully positioned his warm, gooey marshmallow evenly between a dark chocolate square and a crispy honey graham cracker. He took a big bite, then high-fived his little bro before heading to the picnic table to reload supplies. When Kyler walked by, he wiped sticky marshmallow remnants from his cheek and winked at me on the sly. “It’s all good, Mom,” he mumbled.

The following morning, Trevyn came bounding into my room sporting nothing but underwear and a pair of swim goggles. “Time to snorkel!” he declared.

I rubbed my tired eyes and tried to focus. Trevyn was digging through a pile of dirty laundry in search of swim trunks.

“The crayfish are gone,” Trevyn said. “Kyler took care of it last night.”

“Great! How did he do that?” I asked.

Trevyn climbed onto the bed and scooted close to me, cupping his hands around his mouth.“There’s a drain at the bottom of the lake,” Trevyn murmured. “Kyler dove down and pulled the plug to whoosh away all those pinchy crayfish.”

I stifled a chuckle. “And then he refilled the lake?” I asked.

“Yup!” Trevyn said with total confidence. Then he hopped off the bed and raced outside to grab a beach towel from the clothesline.

Poof! Just like that, his anxiety vanished. Kyler had swiftly and seamlessly found a way to enable Trevyn to once again swim with abandon. It seemed my older son’s fondness for drama class was paying off.

I thought about how Kyler had not only performed this little miracle, but how he had also helped his brother make his s’mores, and how he patiently demonstrated the proper way to hold a fishing pole, and how he regularly calmed Trevyn’s fear of the dark by uttering the reassuring words, “Don’t worry, buddy. I’ll protect you.”

The future’s a mystery, but one thing is certain: Someday, Kyler will make an incredible cabin dad. Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks that if everyone could experience life at a cabin, the world would be a happier place.