Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I was really glad to see my niece this past weekend. I don't get to see her often enough and so every time I do, it feels like someone has hit the fast forward button on her life and she has grown before my eyes. She is an amazing 6 year old who is smart, funny, and just a tad bit fearful. Here (in no particular order) is a non-exhaustive list of the current things my niece is afraid of - people being angry with her, getting in trouble, loud noises, Maleficient, Ursula and most other Disney Villans, Veggietales (yes, you read that correctly), new situations, getting yelled at, and probably a lot of other things that either didn't come up during her visit or I have already forgotten.

My in-laws are of the opinion (of course) that her propensity for fear is attributable to faulty parenting. I am not sure I can agree with them on that. Probably partly because, as a parent myself, I am extremely sensitive to the idea that my own Tot's behavior will be a direct result from every parenting decision I make. I tend to believe that his own little personality and feelings will play a large role in what he does and who he is. Moreover, as a former therapist, I know that behavior is never quite as black and white as A+B=C. If it worked so well as that, it would be easy to trace back the source of problem behaviors and correct them. And many therapists would be out of a job. The reality is that many variables influence a child's behavior, not just the reactions of their parents.

This is a cause for some concern in my mind because I don't want the Tot to be fearful, but it seems like a little bit of a crap shoot.  I know that some children have more of a predisposition to anxiety than others which means that he could just as easily be an anxious little boy as a carefree one. I know that all I can really do is be there for him and reassure him if he becomes afraid. I find myself hoping that if he is afraid, it is a typical fear from childhood like the dark or thunderstorms. Something that will easily be conquered by age and with time.

The thing about life is - it is scary. There are lots of really scary things out there in the big bad world. People we love get sick and die, mean people do awful things like steal or hurt other people, wars happen and disaster strikes. It's not that I don't want him to ever know about these things, but right now he has a fearlessness that can only come from the blissful unawareness of childhood. I want him to hold on to that as long as he can. As for my niece, I can only hope that this is a phase like any other and she will grow out of it soon. Perhaps the next time I see her, she will be a much more carefree version of herself.

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