Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Mommy, the Fearness Came Back"

As I was getting ready to take my son to my mom's for the day, he came into my room and timidly squeaked, "Mommy, the fearness came back."

And, with those five simple words marks the beginning of the end of my son's innocence.


He isn't a sheltered child, by any means. I allow him to watch TV, carefully chosen shows with the occasional splurge, like his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We go to the movies when there is an age-appropriate movie playing. He even has his own little Innotab game system; since he's only four he doesn't yet play Nintendo or Playstation. And, we go out and about on a daily basis, experiencing life outside our carefully secured home.


None of these experiences had ever given him cause to feel fear, though. Not just the cautionary fear that keeps us from touching something hot or jumping off a cliff, but the kind of fear that creeps into your psyche, cementing itself into your very core; the kind of fear that is weighing down my once carefree and fearless little boy. Up until a couple of weeks ago, my son had managed to maintain his sense of safety and security, not knowing that life can be wrought with paralyzing fear. He loved his alone time, relishing in a basket of books while I showered or playing out back in his sand box with just our dogs to keep him company.


Now, noises and sounds that used to intrigue him, pique his interest, and draw him towards their source for further investigation, send him running the other way. He won't go to his bathroom by himself, nor does he play alone in his room anymore. When I try to send him to enjoy some alone time, I am met with the sharp pain of "Mommy, the fearness came back!" Not only does it hurt me to see him afraid, but his shame in being afraid shows on his sweet little face! Even though I tell him it's okay to be afraid, I want to encourage him to face his fears.

After this morning's declaration, I sat down with my little guy to find out where this "fearness" came from. Turns out, he had watched a documentary on the Chupacabra with my dad a couple of weeks ago. I don't think my dad realized it would frighten him the way it has, and maybe he didn't even realize my son was there watching it (my dad often falls asleep in his recliner while watching TV :-). So, I did what most parents would do, I assured him there was no such thing as a Chupacabra, that the TV show was make-believe. I also reassured him that, even if there was such a creature, it would probably be more scared of us than we are of it. To really bring it home, I told my son there was no way our dogs would let anyone, or anything, get close enough to hurt him.

But, to this little four year old who, while he understands that cartoons aren't real, the Chupacabra most certainly is! No amount of reassurance could convince him otherwise. Which brings me to my dilemma! I want to be there for my son, to comfort him, to protect him, but to what extent? I believe in giving my son the space and the freedom to work through his own problems, to figure things out on his own; I always have.

When we are at the park and another little boy pushes him, I don't address the little boy; I tell my son he has every right to tell that little boy he doesn't like being pushed and to please stop. I want my son to know that he has a voice, and I want to encourage him to use it!

When my son is working on a complex puzzle, I contain my urge to rotate that one final piece he just can't seem to make fit; allowing him the confidence-boosting satisfaction of discovering it all on his own!

While I would never want my son to hurt himself, I do gauge certain circumstances and, if the most he will get is a cut or a bruise, I let him figure it out on his own. Like learning how to ride a bike: if I'm always there to hold him up, he will never learn how to "fly".


I want to be there for him when he needs me; pick him up when he does fall down; comfort his sensitive nature when the world breaks his heart.


Since he won't play in his room alone, I moved his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Secret Sewer Lair, into the living room. It now perches on our brick fireplace so that he can play with it in the presence of the dogs and me. But, I don't want to smother him, deny him the opportunities to develop his inner strength, or shelter him from the irreplaceable lessons of making mistakes and getting hurt.

So, how do I protect him from the potentially chronic fears that develop into phobias, but at the same time nurture his sense of adventure and passion? What do I do when "the fearness comes back"?

SOL

11 comments:

  1. What a lovely, well-written piece. I just want to say first something about the writing stuff--I loved how you wrote to or about a question you had in your own heart and mind. So often we as writers get all worked up because we don't have enough wise words to spit out…when really it's the being honest and opening up about what perplexes or worries you that that produces the best pieces of work.

    That said, with three kids at home with me now--7, 5, and 3--I think TIME is my biggest answer for you. He'll grow from this, certainly, and realize that there is less to fear than he first realized after watching the scary show. And my second thought is one that I think about all the time: You can't be brave until you feel fear. You're doing a great job of reassuring him, and letting him know that he has what it takes to take a deep breath and play in his room alone for a few minutes today, maybe a few more next week, and…so on.

    Well done, mama and writer!

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    1. I love your sentiment, "you can't be brave until you feel fear", Book Mama! I've always known this for myself but, until I read your words here, I didn't really apply it to my son! Thank you for such kind and encouraging words :-)

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  2. I love this! This is the age I teach...and I felt as if I was present with your child, just reading this. I am touched by his expression "The fearness." I particularly like this line from your post - "Now, noises and sounds that used to intrigue him, pique his interest, and draw him towards their source for further investigation, send him running the other way." This is the developmental cycle of children - progression, regression, progression... Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Maureen, thanks for your visit and words! I've never worked with younger kids and, he being my first and only child, ECE is new to me, so reassurance is welcome :-)

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  3. Keep supporting him, as he grows to understand the world, his fears will diminish. What a cutie!

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    1. Thanks Elsie, for the encouraging words and compliment :-)

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  4. He is so lucky to have you as his mother. I really do think this is a stage and he will soon forget or outgrow this "fearless". Raising and teaching kids to face their fears is a difficult thing to do. Sometimes, we as adults can't do this. I have been away from blogging for awhile but I am so glad to see you here again!

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    1. Hi Leigh Anne, I noticed your absence last week! I went to your blog but you hadn't posted a slice. I agree with your thoughts on facing our fears. There are still some I am learning to stand up to, like writing in this blog :-) Thanks again for helping me stand up to that fear, by the way!

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  5. Oh, the video is just precious. What a sweetheart. It's such a difficult thing to balance freedom and safety, courage and caution. You sound like you're doing everything right. He seems to need a little extra TLC right now, and that's ok. My children are 18 and 21 now, and when I look back, I think sometimes I pushed for independence when what they really needed was reassurance. His time will come, and he has plenty of it. Savor this time when he needs his mom!

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    1. Thanks so much, Holly! I love the video :-) And, your distinction between a push for independence and reassurance is very poignant! It's funny because I left my son with my niece for a couple of hours today (she's 23 now so the movies she grew up with were very different) and she put in The Pagemaster. It's about a young boy accepting and facing his fears. She had no idea he has been going through this but the timing of her choice in movies was perfect! Thanks so much for the enocuragement!

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