Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the power of fear

Just this past week we've been introduced to a new emotion to George.  Fear. Multiple times, we've seen him run away from dark parts of our house shouting "monkeys, monkeys!" Of course it's cute and we kind of laugh, but it's also kind of sad to think that his imagination has developed to the point where he can be afraid of something that his brain created. The only other time I've really seen George scared was when I was making different "funny" faces at him, and I made one where I pull my eyes down, nose up, and the corners of my mouth out.  I remember learning this face from my friend Jeff in 2nd grade.  It's been a stunner ever since.

George was not a fan. He showed visible signs of distress and started to cry.  Not sure It was the face, I did it again and BINGO - we have a scary face.  Other than that - I really haven't seen George that scared of things.  Not that he won't be, I just don't think the fear instinct has really matured in his little brain yet.

This experience also is in the line with a snippet I caught on Neatorama today. The article describes a practice of Japanese parents using a traditional monster to startle their children into obedience. It sounds totally horrifying - but of course as a parent I can relate to the sentiment of being willing to do almost anything to get your kid to listen to you.  We (Americans) don't really have a traditional folk monster like the Namahage - so maybe I'd have to dress up like Jason or Freddy.  I can't imagine doing that when I put it in that context.

All this talk of fear reminds me a lot of the book I've been reading (thanks Dawn!), Free Range Kids, which goes into great depths to discuss the culture of fear we're living in, and that is pushed on us so we'll consume, or feel guilt for not/doing a, b, or c.  I haven't finished it yet, but I plan on talking about it at length later.

Which brings me to you - reader.  What are your experiences with your child's fear?  When did you first notice that they were becoming afraid of things?  What were they?  Do you think there are positive aspects of fear that you can teach your children with out causing them to be too timid?


Priscilla said...

Andrew said he was happy until I read "The nightmare in my closet." He said it ruined his life. I think he is over it now-at 23. I hope so. I was always afraid of the dark but if I pulled the blankets over my head I believed no evil could penetrate my blanket. I didn't carry it around though. Poor George, face was inches away from a grizzly bear( only some thick glass between them). Then he really looked at the gorillas for a long time. No wonder he is scared. I think he is well adjusted despite fear of monkeys. Maybe watching King Kong with him wouldn't be a great idea for a few more years. Priscilla

david said...

the first thing I can really remember being afraid of his having my limbs hang over the edge of the bed. I was afraid that if I let them hang off, little trolls might nibble on them or pull me under.

it is quite amazing how powerful the imagination can be.

your blanket - sounds very comforting priscilla. your experience seems to ground a lot of other kids experiences, and attachments to blankets. george hasn't developed one as yet, but i think there's plenty of time yet...

Serena Cherry said...

Charlotte is scared of Santa. She is also scared of Beauty and the Beast, and when we talk about it, she won't sleep through the night. So sad! I remember being really really terrified as a child. I think it is a sign of a good imagination, but certainly sad.
So funny and horrifying that the Japanese scare their children into obedience. Reminds me of that darn Tiger mother!

Dawn D. Lion said...

Yes, I remember inadvertently scaring Maxine when she was about 2. It was a similar scenario. I had a habit of drawing things for her for entertainment. We were drawing monsters. You know, like Elmo's a monster. Apparently the monsters I draw were a lot scarier than Elmo. It's funny how you don't realized how as an adult anything could possibly be scary until you see it through he eyes of your kid.
Remind me to tell you more of this drawing monsters story in person, I can't quite convey it all in writing. It's definitely one of our "funny/bad parent" incidents.