How do I handle my fearless child?
We’re all supposedly born with two fears – falling and loud noises. They’re written into our DNA as mechanisms for survival, and yet I have a toddler who regularly tries to walk off the bed with an apparent disregard for the distance between her and the floor.
The Popple is mostly fearless. She loves big dogs (the bigger and more threatening-looking, the better) and loud trucks. She attempts to climb up slides and run into traffic. She’s very interested in strangers, especially the slightly weird ones. At 14 months old and under 20 lbs, she is much, much braver than me.
The only things that have really scared her have been me leaving her at nursery (totally understandable) and my cat’s toy mouse (a complete mystery).
“Look, it’s Milo’s mouse!” I said brightly when I first showed it to her, shaking it so it squeaked. She loved his other toy mouse, a purple furry thing that she plucked at until it no longer had a tail.
She backed away, pointing at it accusingly.
“It’s okay. It’s not real.” I picked it up and placed it in her hands. She drew back and pointed.
“Okay, we don’t have to play with it. Mama will put it on the floor.” I placed it on the carpet, but she kept pointing at it. It wasn’t until I hid the mouse until a blanket that she relaxed.
I had some odd childhood fears myself, including:
- Superman. Somehow I got it into my head that he was a bad guy, and I had nightmares where he swooped into my house and carried me away.
- That if I didn’t play with all of my stuffed animals equally, the ones I had neglected would come attack me during the night.
- The drawings in the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. I had to keep the books face down at night so the cover drawings couldn’t see me.
I mentioned this fear to Adrian recently and he scoffed.
“You were afraid of some drawings?” he said.
“Have you ever SEEN these drawings?” I asked.
He hadn’t, so I showed him. And he totally got it, because THIS IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES.
Now that I’m an adult, I’m afraid of more rational things, like being stuck in a situation where I have to make awkward conversation with a stranger. Or having to find my way to a place I’ve never been to before (yes, I know we all have maps on our phones now, but Google Maps is no match for my appalling sense of direction). Or coming across someone I know I’ve met before but whose name I’ve forgotten, and having to spend the entire conversation anxiously hoping that names never come up.
But the thing that I’m afraid of the most is not being able to keep the Popple safe. It’s the only fear that matters, the one that keeps me up at night, the one that I share with all parents everywhere. How can I protect this little ball of energy that walks off ledges and approaches pit bulls with open arms?
I suspect I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to answer that question.