Sunday, November 06, 2005

Just For The Fear of It

I remember as a child of five or six how terrified I was that our house was going to burn down. I would have nightmares for what seemed like every single night and would quiver and cry in my bed. It didn't help that I could clearly hear the sirens on "Adam 12" or "Emergency" blaring from our television set in the living room. There were nights when it got so bad that my mother would hear me crying. Depending on her mood, she would hug me and tell me everything was going to be OK, or she would yell at me to be quiet and stop crying. I remember once or twice even being allowed to sleep between my parents with strict orders to NOT look under the covers. YIKES. Over the year, I got over many of my fears (with the exception of clowns) but I never forgot the annoyed reaction my parents sometimes had when I was afraid of something.

Baby Girl has become afraid of things. Last year when she decided she was afraid of taking a bath for a few weeks, we simply stripped her naked and hosed her down in the front yard. It was August, so it wasn't all that surprising to see a naked baby running through the jet spray of a hose. Our daughter just also had the sheen of baby wash on her. We thought it was funny, and the phase went away. We arrogantly patted ourselves on the back for our superior parenting skills and were proud of our daughter who seemed to know no fear.

A couple of months ago, Baby Girl started screaming at the top of her lungs after we tucked her in at night. For upwards of an hour. At first, we were sympathetic. Then we got annoyed. Then we got angry. Here we used to have this perfect sleeper who always happily went to bed and instantly fell asleep and stayed asleep for 11-13 hours. Now we have a child who could nail an audition for a horror movie. It took a couple of weeks to realize that MAYBE she was afraid of the dark. I didn't necessarily want to feed her the idea by asking her, but after a couple of weeks of this nonsense, I asked her and she wailed, "Yeeeeessss!"

In addition to the dark, Baby Girl is afraid of the ocean, ladybugs and flies and lawnmowers. She is also afraid of going down the drain when we let the water out of the bathtub, which means we are back to her not wanting to bathe. She regularly runs around the house saying, "I'm so Skiiiired!"

I occasionally get annoyed with her fears du jour. It's not the fears themselves, it's just that it can be quite inconvenient to deal with them when they surface. It's not convenient to deal with a fear of the ocean when we are on vacation at the shore. It's not convenient to manage her fear of going down the drain when I am trying to make sure her baby sister doesn't drown and Baby Girl doesn't crack her head open on the tub from trying to jump out. It's not convenient to wake me up at 5:30 in the morning (after I fed the baby at 4:30 and had just fallen back asleep) because you were awoken by thunder and are suddenly terrified of storms. The feeling of annoyance towards my daughter then shifts into feelings of shame for how I'm feeling. Then the shame gives way to sadness. It makes me so sad and powerless that we are entering a new phase of her life where I cannot control the situation and make her feel better. She has to do it on her own.

It can be almost heartbreaking to hear her working through her fears. She'll walk down a darkened hallway and repeat the mantra, "I'm NOT going to be afraid ANYMORE!" This morning during the storm, we let her come into bed with us, knowing full well that none of us would be going back to sleep. Whenever we saw a bolt of lightening, she would say, "Did you SEE that one?" When the thunder would come, she would rub my back and say, "It's going to be OK, Mommy. You don't have to be afraid." After the storm, she announced that she wasn't afraid of thunder anymore and that she wanted waffles for breakfast.

Since it is difficult to predict what Baby Girl is going to be afraid of next, I am very careful to not express what scares me. That said, I have made it quite clear that her father will be responsible for taking her to the circus or any birthday parties that will have a clown in attendance.


kimmyk said...

I remember when my son was about 3 or 4 years old-he would have these night terrors and just freak out. Sometimes he would talk like a possesed child-freaked me out too. We just let him work through whatever was bothering him and he was fine. But it seemed if it wasn't one thing it was another-on going vicious cycle. But at some point he figured it all out on his own because by the time he got in first grade it was over with. (or so that's how I remember it)
I hope baby girl works through all this..for her sake and yours.

Good luck.
*oh yah, like the new layout*

MetroDad said...

Sounds like she's got a bad case of the night terrors. Might want to check the old internets to research some possible tips. Friends of ours have kids who have gone through the same thing. Unfortunately, in some cases, nothing seems to work and you just have to kind of wait it out until they grow out of it. Must be tough! I can't even imagine (but of course, I'm sure I soon will)

Dig the new layout too!

Susan said...

Henry is afraid of dogs. Unless he's not, in which case he likes to pet them. Until he remembers that he's afraid of them, then he jumps around yelling, 'I don't like dogs!' which scares the bejesus out of the dog he was just petting.

So what I'm saying is, I HEAR YOU.

And I love the new layout.

Jenette said...

The Hethan went through this fearful stage too... sometimes he's still in it. I remember when he began to be afraid of the dark--we actually bought him his own flashlight that he could turn on and off. It helped. As far as the fear du jours, well... they suck, and they make me impatient sometimes, but then I try to see the world from his three year old point of view, and while I still get frustrated over the "silly" fears, I acknowledge them. We've found that acknowledging the fears, and discussing them rationally is a good approach with Hethan. It works with some, not with others.
Ok, this is your blog, I shouldn't be writing the book! :)
Like the new layout as well.

Velma said...

Boy, do I know all about this! My 5 yr old daughter has developed into a major drama queen, mostly having to do with similar fears. Bugs, the ocean, the dark, loud noises, and of course big dogs - she inevitably starts screaming and running when they approach, no matter how hard I try to impress upon her that they will CHASE her. Yaarrgh.

barb said...

We are going thruh the panic phase right now and I hope hope hope that it is just a phase!!

My boy is five and what he seems to have is a fear of life. He is afraid that anything could happen to us he is always worried. While that is actually a good trait, being sensitive and all that, boy is it tiring.

I'm trying to be patient and understanding but sometimes I just get irritated. Reading that you remembered the annoyed reaction of your parents made me realize how important it is to be there for him and not be annoyed that he calls me away from watching CSI.