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.