Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Terrify Your Toddler Without Really Trying

In her short life, Abby's been racking up a list of oddball things that she's afraid of. These include:  unfamiliar dogs, Santa, jack-in-the-boxes, snowtalking bushes, and full-sized (as opposed to inflatable) pools. She's also begun selectively noticing things she sees on television that she'll later label as "scary" and whimper at upon her next exposure.

Her timidity is endearing and sweet, but makes me worry sometimes. I try to be careful now about introducing her to new things because I don't want her to feel scared of the world around her. I was especially disappointed that we both missed out on experiencing the first real snow of the season this past winter. Though she has assured me since that she wants to try it out at the next opportunity, I wonder how she'll really feel about it when the time comes.

Partly because of her history, I was elated to see her interest and excitement regarding the caterpillar that I brought home for her to observe a few weeks ago. I counted it as a win that she at least does not have an innate fear of insects. (This was understandably not my first reaction when she tried to eat a dead bug in our old apartment, but that was a different instance, entirely.) Though I realize that she'll have to learn which ones to avoid over time, I myself have fond memories of spending hours in the yard discovering various worms, pill bugs, ants, and beetles beneath stepping stones and under rocks. I hope that she will have the benefit of doing the same.

However, I seem to have inadvertently set her a few steps back from ever attempting such an encounter.

A few days ago, she announced to me while playing in the basement, "Mommy, there's a spider under Obibah's dress."

I perked up immediately and began to approach. Though I'm very appreciative of all that spiders do, I'm not fond of having them anywhere in my immediate vicinity, or that of my children, and we get some pretty big ones around here at times. Even though I prepped myself for seeing one that was potentially a quarter-size or larger, and took my time lifting the doll's dress, I was not actually prepared to see something large and black jump out from beneath the fabric.

I screamed so loudly that I could hear Tom startle in the dining room above. Abby jumped back at least a foot, her eyes open wider than I ever thought it possible for them to go. A split second too late, I realized two things: 1) What I saw was just an ordinary field cricket and 2) I had just needlessly terrified everyone in the room, and beyond.

I tried to fix things. I scooped up the cricket (on perhaps my eighth attempt) in my bare hands, laughing and smiling all the while. "Oh! It's just a cricket! What a cute cricket!" I garnered as much enthusiasm as I could when I offering my cupped hands to Abby, trying to coax her into taking a peek. "Abby look, how cute! I used to keep crickets as pets when I was a little girl. See? Look."

She would not be convinced. What she seemed to find most relevant was my initial reaction, and her opinion was set. She wasn't coming anywhere near the thing.

I guess that now I'll be adding another item to Abby's list. The question is, will it be crickets, or spiders, or both? Hopefully there's still a chance she'll give a worm or beetle the benefit of the doubt, someday.