For the past couple of weeks we have been dealing with some pretty unusual fears in my 3 year old. She is a cuddly and lovable companion who is happy to sit quietly while I read, watch TV, or work on the computer. She will jump in with the house chores and insist on helping while I make a meal. She is generally not the adventurous type. Cautious and reserved, she hesitates to engage in anything unfamiliar or out of her routine. This is a habit that will not fair her well in life, so we do what we can to encourage her to branch out a bit. Rewards, cheers of praise, and much doting have served us well in building her courage.
Now she doesn't express the more characteristic fears of her age. There are no issues with monsters, sleeping in the dark, or being alone in a room. For this, we are very grateful. Her fears are, shall we say, unique? Let me explain. The other night I was prepping her for her evening bath. Excitedly she jumps in with no issues eager to begin playing with her bath toys. As I turn my back to tidy the bathroom, I hear her suddenly begin screeching. This was not a standard scream; this was wide mouthed extreme panic. I quickly turned expecting to see some tiny helpless bug floating at the top of the water. She was pressed against one side of the tub, her arms tucked in at each side avoiding a section of the water. I quickly began the standard questions, eager to do what I could to halt the horrid noise coming from such a small person. After a few seconds, she revealed that the culprit of this sudden and horrific fear were none other than fuzzies in the bath. You heard me, fuzzies a.k.a. sock lint. And the funny thing is, she knew that is what they were. She didn't confuse them with bugs or some other foreign creature, she actually knew that it was just sock lint.
We all know that fear is not always rational. That is the the thing about fear. It is fear's unique niche; it doesn't have to make sense. And this one certainly didn't. I was forced to make a decision that all parents deal with. Although I felt for how terrified she was I couldn't let her be arrested by something so minute. The pattern of irrational and sudden fears needed to end at some point, so I decided that she should stick it out in the tub. I worked to remove them for her while explaining that they could do nothing to her. All the while she continued to cry endlessly. I was exhausted and seemed to be making no progress. Unsure of what to do next, I looked her in the eye and told her I would just cry with her until bath time was over. So I did (not real crying, of course). And it yielded the most unexpected result. She stopped crying, looked at me with her head cocked a bit and said, "Mama, you not posed a [translation: supposed to] cry, you be the big girl." And that's when I lost it. I was trying so hard to be serious, but I just burst into laughter. So did she.
Later that evening as I sat and thought about our unique bathtime, perusing my thoughts on how I could have or should have handled the situation differently, I couldn't stop thinking about her comment. Although it was cute and timely, it was a huge eye opener for me and her perspective and feelings about my role as the parent. She was right. In those moments when life is challenging for her, or she is uncertain, or overcoming an unrealistic fear, she needs me to be her pillar. She needs me to reassure her that drinking milk is good for her, naps are essential, and sock fuzzies in the bath won't hurt her. It's funny to me that she sees me this way as I still feel like a kid myself so much of the time. I still don't know how I got here, the parent. But I can be the big girl, for her.