My two year-old is afraid of trolls. Lions. And deer. He thinks they will find their way inside our house and into his room at night. “I don’t want the animals to come,” he says, before plugging his mouth with his thumb. And while climbing the stairs for bed he asks what is underneath his bed.

Where does fear come from? Sometimes I think it’s too soon. Give him a few more years to fall in love with the world before recoiling from it. But I suppose it is human nature to be afraid of what can consume you.

The book where he first learned of trolls has vanished from the shelf even though he hasn’t asked to read it in a week. When tucking him in at night, I reassure him that lions live far away in Africa. Which is true. I tell him that he would need two planes, at least, to get there. I do not tell him that mountain lions roam the national forest that is our backyard. That I have seen their footprints in the snow. And that I have turned back when running certain empty trails just because I had a feeling I should.

Sometimes he runs around the house yelling “roar! Mama roar!” He likes being chased until the moment he believes a mother might really be able to transform into a lion. In his world, I know the answers to all questions. I am the keeper of safety. The chaser of bad dreams. It might even be possible for me to take flight.

The other afternoon he pointed to the sky, his cheeks reddened from the snow-scrubbed air, and demanded “fly like the birds, mama!” I kept my smile and looked up at sparrows overhead.

Afterward I snapped an icicle off the forsythia bush and placed it in his mittened hands. “You can’t eat it,” he told me. “Oh you can,” I responded. He slowly brought it to his lips and tasted the ice. His eyes sparkled. Then he cracked the tip off with his teeth and crunched on the cold.

“The world is alright” I said.

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