Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Phobias, schmobias!

I was reading Pioneer Woman's blog last night, and it started me thinking. Uh-oh, run for the hills! OK, kidding aside, she wrote about a phobia. Her readers (of which there are many) wrote to her about their own phobias and coping mechanisms. There were a number of folks who mentioned cognitive therapy, medication, and alcohol. Many of them mentioned that their fear started when they had kids. Which got me thinking more.

Have I been afraid of anything new since I had Bird? Or more afraid of something old?

Nope. At least, I don't think so. All the old phobias are still in place, and I am still ignoring them except when I'm not, but there are no new bugaboos.

Bird is fearless. Last evening, he was throwing something away at Borders and struck up a conversation with two startled strangers. I think they weren't prepared for a five-year-old evil genius. They cast cautious glances my way, perhaps afraid that the large woman in blue would feel compelled to charge in defense of her young. Hah! I let him chatter, just to see how he would do. When they were done talking and he turned back to me, I gave what I think of as a friendly smile (perhaps fewer teeth, Ms. Whale Shark!!) and explained "No such thing as strangers, for him." The woman smiled back and said she thought that was great.

Well, yeah, it is...although I need to teach him caution. Now how does one do that without instilling fear? Have to work on that. Meanwhile, I just watch him charm the socks off folks and try to make certain he's not being a pest. Some people don't like talking to random kids, can you imagine??

I remember reading once (long, long ago) that we can teach children our fears. We can teach them fears of their very own, too. I believe this - I have seen it happen. So when I had my own little bundle of wriggling poo production, I wanted to be certain I didn't give him anything he wasn't born with. Good thing most of my phobias are internalized things, not easily seen. Agoraphobia, claustrophobia, xenophobia (oh, that's a fun one!) and such are things people can't see...not like jumping and yelling when you see a snake or spider or chicken or something.

Now, I earned my fears the old fashioned way, through experience and hard work. If my kid wants some of his own, he can just go out and get them without my help. It's a growing thing. Like...umm...I dunno, killing a wildebeest with your teeth or something.

I'm not afraid of spiders, so I'm the one who moves them when people get creeped out by one. Pick 'em up and move 'em without a though, even Black Widows and Brown Recluses. To date, I haven't been bitten, but there's always tomorrow. I am not afraid of snakes, although I do have a healthy respect for them. I think they're beautiful, truth be told. Not afraid of bees or other stingy things, so I don't have to worry about passing that along. I have a friend who is afraid of anything with wings...they are all evil chickens that are flapping at her to peck her eyes out. Butterflies, even...she calls them butterchickens. Dragonchickens. Mothchickens. It sounds funny, and she laughs about it, but the day she stood there and took a moth to the face while we were on stage was epic. I had to defend her from the evil interloper, going so far as to endanger my own self to gently cup the poor thing in my hands and contain it in a box until the concert was over. She never stopped singing, even as she ducked, dodged, and nearly cried. I was so proud.

Bird let a bee land on his hand last fall. It was so cool. He ran up to me, excited as only a child that age can be when a stinging insect has chosen them to alight on, and exclaimed "Mommy, look, I caught a bug!!" Silly me, I was expecting a beetle or some other innocuous critter. Nope. Bee. So I explained to him about being careful not to frighten the little sister, that she would sting him if she was afraid but was otherwise quite safe. She crawled all over his hand, while I wracked my brain trying to thing whether he'd recently washed said paw, or if there was anything there to get her excited. He was clean, I think. I told him about how she was checking him out, giving his hand a sniff-taste, and if she decided he wasn't food she'd tag him as "not food" so all the other bees would know and wouldn't waste their time. We examined her quite closely, admiring her glossy wings and furry body and stripes. We could see where her stinger was, and watched her tiny feet as she walked about. I held his sleeve shut so she wouldn't go up there and get smushed or frightened. Eventually, she crawled onto his sleeves and I brushed her off...she didn't seem to unhappy, just flew in a circle and headed off to things-more-edible-and-less-nosy. Another friend watched this five minute experience, and all she could say was "Whoa, that was the coolest thing ever." I guess she's used to people flapping their arms, running around, and the like. Well...now my kid won't be one of them. I did explain about bees stinging, why they do it and what it means for them. He nodded like a wise little four-year-old evil genius does, and I think he got it. Anyway, he still thinks bees are cool, not frightening. Score one for mom.

We learn about things like strange dogs, cats, snakes, and beavers and stuff...you know, the usual critters. He won't be afraid of them. The hardest thing for me is to keep from teaching him fear of the scariest of all creatures on this earth...humans. See, there's noting in nature that concerns me as much as us. Of all the things Nature made, we are the worst, the most hateful, randomly violent, cruel. That's the fear I have the hardest time not passing along. I try to think like my departed grandmother, who once said "Strangers are just friends you haven't made, yet." It's hard, though. People terrify me.

Most fears can be soothed, if not completely removed, by knowledge. It truly is power. To know a thing, to know why it acts as it does and have some measure of predictability, makes it less frightening. No, the bee sting won't hurt any less, but at least it isn't some mysterious pain...there's a reason for it, a logic to it, if only bee-logic.

Knowing what makes you afraid, and why, is a good start. Learning about what scares you takes away the mystery, takes away the power. Remember Dorothy, when she discovered that the Wizard was really the old guy behind the curtain? Kind of like that.

There's so much more that could be said, but I have to go wrestle my son into his clothing so we can go for his regular dental adventure. Whee.

1 comment:

foolery said...

This was really nice. We think somewhat alike, but you are braver than I am. I work overtime not to harm bees and other creatures, to teach my daughters respect for life and rational reactions to natural situations, and to instill confidence and calmness in them. But to let a bee crawl on one of them is a bravery I haven't achieved yet. Kudos to you.

-- Laurie