Admission time: I was a scared kid. I think I hid it well, but I remember being afraid of most everything. Up through the first few years of high school I still remember being afraid of the dark, hating having to walk across the room to turn off the light for fear of some non-existent evil attacking me during the short walk back to my bed. I would then wrap myself up in my comforter, allowing it to serve as some sort of force field/shield against that same unknown evil, perhaps making it think nothing was in the bed worth eating.
Heck, I even remember as a really young buck being afraid of the idea of having a second story room due to the fact that giraffes could reach their heads in my window and…I don’t know…eat me, I guess.
As I’ve grown into something more akin to an adult, I’ve found most of my fears have dissipated. Now I’m left with fears of things like, what if my son falls off that jungle gym he’s climbing on, or, what if the doctor notices I still need my booster shot? (yeah…me and needles still aren’t very good friends)
But now that I’ve got kids, I can’t help but be afraid of their fears. Knowing how much my fears would paralyze me, cause me to wrap myself up into little frightened balls every night…well, I just don’t want that to happen to them. I don’t want them to make it to high school knowing that there’s no monster under their bed, but still having some weird irrational fear towards it anyways.
My daughter, I’ve found, doesn’t really have this issue. She is, in most regards, fearless. She’s the one who runs into the haunted house at the apple orchard full steam, wanting to figure everything out and laughs at the silly imagery inside. She’s the one who will ride everything you put in front of her, haunted mansion, awesome, tower of terror, a little shaky, but still loved it.
My son, on the other hand…he reminds me of me in a lot more ways than just his looks. He’s the one who stands just outside of the haunted house, wishing he had the gumption to go in, but feeling his flight response taking over completely.
The kid’s a scaredy cat, plain and simple. I remember one night he was feeling especially trepidatious and was certain that there was some sort of monster hiding within our darkened living room. We were in the kitchen, which is right next to the living room, playing with a ball on the floor. The ball landed within one foot of the opened doorway to the living room…on the kitchen side. He refused to retrieve it. Absolute terror was in his eyes at the idea that the ball laying there was just some sort of trap devised by the evil monster hiding under our couch so my son would get close enough to be eaten.
So, I devised a plan.
To be honest, I came up with this idea back when my daughter was younger, using it the one time she actually talked about these unseen monsters. But I finally decided to attempt to implement it with my son, on this night he was so frightened of nearing the darkened room. I mean…this kid will run in the opposite direction he’s heading in just at the mention of the word monster (if he’s in the fearful mood).
I told my son that monsters are easily scared and that the best way to deal with a monster is to roar at them and they’ll run off. This obviously wasn’t the first attempt I made at getting him over his fear of monsters, but this is the one that has had the most interesting results (and, since tomorrow will be another book review, I figured you folks all deserved a kid pic). He’s taken the idea to heart. He doesn’t always think of it immediately, and he’s still rather fearful of monsters, but when he does remember the idea of scaring the monsters away, he’ll roar into the room or whatever that’s scaring him and then feel fully confident of his ability to enter without being devoured. He’s made up this monster persona for himself, this idea of himself that will scare the monsters away and feel comfortable within.
The very idea of monsters has been overridden by the idea that monsters can be scared. And seeing as he’s never seen one in these rooms, the fix appears to be proven. It’s actually quite amazing. He’s convinced himself of this new truth and it, generally, works.
He’s still a fearful kid, I don’t want you to think that everything changed that very moment. But…he’s become infatuated with the idea of monsters. This morning, when he woke up way too early and I was trying to convince him to hang out in bed with me quietly so I could get a few more seconds of rest, he chose Godzilla as his movie to watch (we chose one of the mecha-godzilla ones), liking to see monsters battling monsters and knowing that there could be good ones out there (he doesn’t quite realize that Godzilla’s not always good).
But…he’s always liked monsters. Mike Wazowski and the Monsters Inc movies were always his favorites.
Which is what’s most interesting to me about fear. It is quite often purely irrational (I’m fully aware that it is not always irrational). And that irrational nature apparently doesn’t end at the fear itself, it can also apply to the fix. I mean, what’s more irrational than the idea that a big ol’ monster would run out of a room at the adorable sound of a little boy roaring? That doesn’t matter to my little boy. It’s how he knows he’s safe.
Now if I could just roar at needles and make them go away as well…