Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I've often wondered if Samantha understands fear.  She certainly understands many other emotions, but how do you actually teach the concept of being scared?  Not like I want to teach her that, or to make her feel that, but it's actually an important part of self-preservation, something I know will be a challenge to get across and teach her.  For most of us, it's innate.  It's that intrinsic part of us, sheltered deep down inside, that we avoid at all costs, unless it's absolutely necessary.  We can acknowledge that it exists, but part of us just takes over, subconsciously, triggering the fight-or-flight reflex when we're placed in danger.

In recent months, Samantha has been showing more and more that she understands some of the basic situations in which children can feel fear.  Although she's faking when she says it, she'll sometimes say, at bedtime, I'm scared of the dark.  Now, having been her mother for 5 1/2 years, I know full-well that she is not scared of the dark.  She's never asked for a night light, nor has she ever had even the tiniest resistance to making herself quite comfortable and falling into a deep sleep almost within the minute her head hits the pillow (like mother like daughter...).  I know she's only saying it because she hears it on television or books or from other children.  And it doesn't bother me, and we'll both have a laugh about it when I call her bluff.  She also will show reticence, and perhaps fear, when climbing at the playground.  She'll begin to make her way up a climber, then stop, whine, and say she can't do it, it's too high.  She's definitely uncomfortable with the situation, although I'm not quite sure it's fear.

But she did something on Saturday that startled even me.  After a fairly busy morning, she and I headed across the schoolyard and into the next neighborhood to a small, local playground.  It was 3:30, and the sun was no longer shining high in the sky.  The closer we got to the playground, the less visible the sun became, falling behind the rows of townhouses around us.  It was chillier without the warm rays, but Samantha was perfectly happy to have me push her higher and higher on the swings, laughing the whole time.  Looking at my watch, I deduced that we wouldn't be able to stay too long before it got got dark, and I told her as much. 

Big mistake?  Not sure...

At that declaration, she suddenly looked up at the sky, a worried expression on her face. 

"I want to go home now."

And she wasn't just saying that.  She was adamant

I stopped the swing and got down close to her, asking her why she wanted to leave so suddenly, and that's when she said it.

"I'm scared."

Scared of what, baby?

"Scared a dark."

I hugged her, explaining that there was nothing to be scared of, and that we still had time before it got dark, but she grabbed my hand, pulling me out of the playground, back towards the safety and familiarity of home.

I felt really, really bad about it.  But that was something I was certainly not expecting.

I think I should actually be pretty happy about it, as it shows that she is thinking about consequence, such as having to walk home in the dark, but guilt for making her feel any kind of fear hit me pretty hard. 

How have your children expressed fear or self-preservation, and in what kinds of situations?  What kinds of concerns do you have about this topic? 

Tomorrow's post addresses one of the most real and frightening kinds of fears that we need to educate our children and ourselves to be aware of and to fight against.  I hate to have to post it, but it's too important not to. 

(And now for a quick old pic, perhaps showing overtiredness, perhaps showing fear?  From her 2nd Christmas, at a year and a half old)


Anna said...

poor Santa..... I mean Samantha! Ha ha. Good post. Still trying to figure out our girl so I enjoyed reading this. I know she grinds her teeth and it used to be all.the.time. But we havent pinpointed the triggers......

Meriah said...

I have been thinking a lot about this as Moxie is quite the thrill seeker... Far more so than Micah ever, ever was (that much is easy to remember)...

Krista said...

thoughts to chew on, but unsure as to answers. On a completely unrelated note: so cute!!!

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

those boots are made for walk'n!! so stink'n cute! smiles

Beth @ Snaps of Our Life said...

Lauren definietly knows fear. She hates to be picked up now because of the 'fan' (the one we took out months ago from her room - I guess all ceilings equal fans now.) She is deathly afraid of Tim with shaving cream on his face (or anything). She always says 'dark in here' when the lights are dim or off. Still not sure if that's true fear yet, but at least she recognizes dark. Those are the main ones. I'm sure there's more. She used to be fear-less - jumping off anything, going up to anyone, doing whatever popped into her head. Now she's a little more shy, and maybe scared. Which is not always a bad thing.

Melissa said...

I wonder if Claire gets fear either. She's a climber and will sometimes scare me. She never seems scared, and when she does freak me out, and I correct her she just laughs. Not that I want her to be scared either, but a little fear can protect you in some situations.