Monday, July 27, 2009

Brontophobia: Fear of Storms

My little Violet is hitting that age. That age when a toddler develops fear. And I can say that I think I hate this more than any other thing a toddler does. While the protesting, arguing, hitting, and willfulness are annoying, I know that they are happening because my children are growing up and thinking for themselves. I get that, and while I might not really enjoy it, I understand the necessity of this to their intellectual and emotional development.

I don't understand the cloud of fear, though. In the last few weeks, poor Miss V has started becoming afraid of several things. Like sudden loud noises. And lying down on a changing table -- though sitting, standing, and climbing on the same changing table seem to be fine.

At first it seemed to be the hair clippers -- when Scott gave Milo a recent shearing, Violet hid in the bathroom, peering around the door frame with her eyes wide, ducking inside the room if Scott so much as motioned in her direction with the clippers. OK, that's fine -- I'm not planning to let her get a clipper cut, anyway -- in other words, this is just a spring rain.

The fear was contagious, though, and it spread to the vacuum cleaner. It's much more difficult to avoid a vacuum cleaner, particularly during shedding season as our beloved mutts drop fur in hunks. I cannot abide by furry clothing or furniture, so I vacuum daily during summer shedding season.

Next up was the fan Scott used to inflate the air mattress in the tent. Again, this isn't an instrument used regularly, so avoiding it shouldn't be difficult.

Now we include power tools. Poor little babe ran screaming to me when we were out at Scott's parents' helping with their new siding. She did it every time grandpa cut a new piece of siding. We eventually went inside the house where she was less affected.

After being in Chicago, or 'Cago as she says, the noisy item at the top of the list is hand driers. Since she's not using a toilet, she was only in and out of public restrooms for diaper changes. This created the Perfect Storm of terror for my poor baby: screaming hand driers and changing tables.

Trying to get her diaper changed was painful for both of us. The minute we approached a restroom, she would tense. Washing her hands was fine and fun, provided we chose to air-dry, which I generally do. But if we walked past the sinks and she noticed me looking around for a Koala Care station, she started whining. If I dropped the changing table into position, she cried outright, "No! no! no! No, mama, I 'cared!"

The final diaper change of the weekend had both of us in tears as I just couldn't make it any better for her and simply refused to change her on the floor of a freeway exit McDonald's. I had refused one other diaper change at Shedd Aquarium -- after I'd watched not one, but two mothers change poop blow-outs with an inadequate number of wipes and was thoroughly disgusted. Thankfully, Scott jumped to the rescue and was in and out of the men's room in no time.

As I pushed the door into the restroom, she tried to vault over my shoulder for Scott as if she thought he would save her from the hurricane of whirring hand-driers. I set her gently on the changing table and she quickly scooted nearly off the end of it. "No, mommy! No! No diaper! Its 'cary! I 'cared!" She was flinging her little arms about, reaching for anything she could use to haul herself off of her back and back into my arms. Talk about heartbreaking... She cried, I cried...

As soon as she noticed me crying, though, she subdued quickly and swiped at my tears as I was wiping hers. "Okay, mommy... Okay. I luh loo..."

She was trying to comfort me they way I comfort her, by holding her tightly and saying, "It's okay, baby... it's okay... I love you..." Not surprisingly, this had the opposite effect of what she'd intended and blinked faster, trying to hold back more tears.

And maybe that's why there is this kind of developmentally appropriate fear -- to teach a child compassion. To help her recognize when someone is giving her everything they have in a moment to help her stay intact. For that moment when she was concerned for me, her fear subsided. Even if the fear wasn't quelled, clearly the love is getting through and touching her, keeping her light shining brightly through the storm, a lighthouse in a dark port.

So maybe I get it. It doesn't mean that I like sailing in this weather.


Vernetta said...

Beautiful! I love your writing. More soup, please :)

Dakota'sMuM said...

Yep, been through just about all those fears with my son! It didnt help that they had installed a hand dryer that sounded like an airplane taking off in our local grocery store bathroom either!! I also do not look forward to going through these fears again with the girls, times 2! Great writing!