Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fear and Turtles in New Hampshire

Lately Sweetie's been saying that she's "scared" of many things. Everything from Grampy to bugs to the T.V. (both off and on) and even her toys supposedly scare her. This has got to stop.

It seems to have started after we took her to an amusement park where we all went on the tilt-a-whirl style ride, fashioned in the shape of friendly turtles. She really wanted to ride it and, technically, she was allowed to go on this ride as long as her parents were with her. But really, I was even scared of it! She lasted through the ride (barely - she REALLY wanted to crawl into her Daddy's lap) and we told her how proud we were of our brave little girl. But the lasting impression for her - the story she told over and over for the next few days to anyone who would listen - was of the "scary turtles". "I cried on the scary turtles, Grampy" she said as she talked to him on the phone the next day. Uh oh - now we've done it. We've brought fear into Sweetie's life.

In her infant and even early toddler days, I would pass by certain commercials for horror films, or watch somewhat scary scenes on popular shows like "CSI". Gruesome images that I needed to turn away from flashed across the screen as Sweetie sat calmly on my lap drinking her juice. She didn't even flinch at such visual stimulation. I remember one episode of said show where I told my husband "she has to go to bed NOW." because the storyline and scenes were just that terrifying and brutal. She didn't seem to mind what she saw on the T.V., but I personally didn't want her subconscious mind to take over and give her nightmares from it. Or would she? Who knows. It always made me wonder just when does a child "learn" about what things are scary or yucky to look at or just plain bad? Well, now I know, because we've taught her ourselves. "We won't go on the scary turtles again." we promised as we quickly got off the crazily whirling ride. "That was scary." we told her, followed by "you were so brave!".

I wish children never had to learn fear. But I guess it's better to be scared and cautious than absolutely fearless, always putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations.

I'll tell you what's scary for me. Change. Changing Sweetie's routine has always made me scared. Well, let's say, uneasy. Simple things - like putting her to bed unswaddled for the first time as an infant after weeks of successfully putting her down tightly wrapped up. Or changing how much milk she drinks in a day and when she drinks it. Will getting a little less milk earlier in the late afternoon mess up her system so that she wakes up earlier from hunger? Anyway - you get my drift. Change can be scary.

Now we're facing two of the biggest changes to Sweetie's routine. Potty training and moving her to her big girl bed loom straight ahead of us - and I am terrified. About how to execute the changes and about how she'll take to them.

I've talked about potty training here before. We're still not there yet and I don't know how to teach her, given my own personal experiences. She has successfully peed in the pot once, for which she was abundantly praised, but that seems to have been just a flukey "accident". But within the last couple weeks she has been talking more and more about when she's "tooting" in her diaper and she has even told us when she feels wet - both very good signs that she is approaching readiness. We also have her Dora panties, that she picked out herself, waiting for her in our bathroom. A prize for when she’s learned. We'll see how soon it is before she can wear them full time.

Then there's sleeping in her bed. I'm not afraid of her falling out, really, because we have a safety rail attached to the side. I'm just worried about how to keep her in bed. She also doesn't have a headboard yet, and until she gets one, I think the bed is off limits. Her bed rests along its side against one wall of her room, leaving the head of the bed open to the room. Without a headboard I feel she could easily scoot up to the top in her sleep and fall out that way - or simply use it as an easy escape any time she feels like it. It really scares me that we won't be able to ever convince her to stay in bed. I don't wear my braces at night and cannot help my husband chase after an escaping child all night long. I don't know how parents do it. Should we stay in the bed with her the first few times until she falls asleep? Should we lock her in her room so if she does get out she at least can't go any farther than that? If anyone out there has any suggestions, I'm very open to hearing anything you've got to say.

From Sweetie's fear of the twirling turtles, to my fear of an escaping child at night - it's all about loss of control. Big or little, we all like to feel in control of both ourselves and our surroundings. But growing up - and growing stronger as a person - means giving up some control. You've got to give yourself over to what's out there in this world to see how to manage yourself in new situations and where they can lead you - for good or bad.

I still don't think Sweetie has any cause to be scared of her Fisher Price barn, though. I think she's got that "situation" pretty much under control.

Just a quick update - I asked my husband this evening if he got a chance to read today's entry. We were talking a little bit about the turtle ride again when Sweetie piped up "I want to go on the turtles, Mommy!" So, it looks like she's over that fear, anyway. Thankfully, at her age, she's much quicker to get over certain things than older kids would be. I just wonder what she'll say the next time we visit that park...

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