Yesterday, the kid was perfectly normal. Today, she's scared of her shadow. And she's scared of what's around the corner in the hallway. And she's scared that a tornado will come. And she's in deathly terror of the very concept of pimples.
That's right, our Pillowfight Fairy--lovely five-year-old girl with a hyperactive imagination--had the Dark Foreboding switch thrown in her brain sometime in the last week. And the Dark Foreboding switch is right next to the Abject Terror switch, which sometimes gets tripped by accident.
What happened? Mommy and I aren't really sure. It's not any one thing, that's for sure. We think it's partly the fact that her abstract imagination is maturing, and that she is now capable of imagining really bad things that she couldn't before. It could also be the fact that we've seen a whole bunch of videos lately to which she's not accustomed (see previous post for a partial list), many of which had some pretty scary scenes. She's also taken to reading through our set of The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, which she absolutely loves--but which has much humor related to concepts like hungry monsters under the bed and transmogrification and sentient dinner-table food (which doesn't particularly want to be eaten), all of which could potentially be planting some weird seeds in that fertile imagination of hers.
So, of what kinds of things is she afraid?
As I mentioned above, she's afraid of whatever's around the corner in our hallway, and in rooms with closed doors and lights off. After all, there might be something there waiting to jump out and get you. For this reason, it's always best to have someone else go around the corner first--usually Mommy or Daddy, but Little Sister will do in a pinch. After all, if something's there, better to have it take someone else first. At any rate, Daddy usually doesn't have much sympathy for these fears, and Mommy (believe it or not) has much, much less. When she balks at heading back there, we typically tell her, "Oh, pish" (or some other synonymous phrase) and just send her back despite her whining. We operate on the theory that the best way to beat these fears is just to have her get over it--that to do otherwise would be to nurture the fears, to legitimize them. Besides, maybe this is nature's way of teaching little children the virtue of Courage.
(Thinking back to my own childhood, I don't think "fear of what's in there" is all that uncommon. I remember that my younger brother was afraid of being in a room where the toilet was being flushed. My older brother and I--cruel as only older brothers can be--figured out the pattern: he would use the loo, then go wash his hands, then open the door; then he would gingerly tiptoe over to the potty and flushandrunforthedoorforallhewasworth. Then, my older brother (who was hiding behind the door) would push it shut and hold it while my younger brother, trapped in the bathroom with that swirling maelstrom of sanitary terror, would seriously freak out. Good times, good times.)
She's also seen a couple of videos lately that has had tornadoes in them. Interestingly, both of them were recent VeggieTales videos, The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's and Moe & the Big Exit. The former of these tells the story of the Prodigal Son in a spoof of the Wizard of Oz, so of course there's a tornado in there (and some tornado humor as well. Although I must say, they absolutely nailed the green-looking sky that occurs just as it's time to head to the shelter. Having spent some of my formative years in various plains states, their depiction of the sky raised the hairs on the back of my neck). The latter video is a retelling of the story of Moses and the Exodus, as a Western. And one of the plagues was a tornado that ripped through the dusty little town ("Dodge-Ball City") and messed up all the store fronts.
(Side note, apropos of nothing: while I realize the seriousness and tragedy of the plagues of Egypt, I'm not immune to noticing that there's a rich vein of humor to be mined in them as well:
"And then Moses stretched out his staff over the river, and the Lord sent forth great swarms of Hippos all over the land. And they were in their houses, and in their kitchens, and in their bedchambers... and everything that the locusts had left, the Hippos smashed flat..."So think of it! What other plagues could the Lord do, should he desire seriously to humiliate someone? Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.)
And the Lord stretched out his hand toward the Land of Egypt, and... gave everybody a wedgie. From the least of them to the greatest, there was none who was spared, from Pharaoh in his palace to the maidservant grinding at the wheel. And a great cry arose over the land--more like a series of loud yelps, actually."
So anyway, we had to explain to the Fairy what a tornado was, and what it could do. As we were describing their power, that they can flatten houses (and occasionally do), she began to get really really scared. We then had to explain that California gets mercifully few tornadoes, and that she really doesn't have to worry about them. We don't think she fully believed our reassurances, though. So I had to pull up a color-coded map online showing tornado frequency by state. See? There are nearly no tornadoes in California in any given year. You're safe.
But then there was the one that has Tonya and me scratching our heads. In place of the Plague of Boils (or sores) in the story of the Exodus, Moe & the Big Exit gives a plague of pimples. That's right, there's a scene in there where the zucchini mayor of Dodge-Ball City looks in his mirror, and little purple pimples suddenly break out all over his face! I thought it was mildly funny. The Fairy thought it was terrifying, and was deathly afraid that the pimples would soon be coming and breaking out all over her face as well!
Hmmm.... this one was a little harder to handle, believe it or not. Only part of that was because we were having difficulty maintaining straight faces while we calmed her fears. The trouble is that, well... pimples are just a fact of life. Our girls are too young to get them now, of course, but given a half-dozen more years or so, they're going to have to deal with them. But try explaining that to a little girl who somehow got the notion into her head that they're the second coming of the Black Death! (Not that she knows anything about the Black Death yet. And we're going to hold off on telling her about that one for a few years yet.)
So yes, little deary, pimples are a fact of life. I had them, your mother had them, you will probably have them too as a teenager, like nearly every other teenager out there. They're just little sores, and they go away after a couple of weeks. And there are some medications out there that can help with them if necessary. They're not dangerous, they're not scary; they're just a little annoying.
To be fair, I have some memories of being seriously freaked out by an episode of Star Trek (original series, of course), when I was not much older than she is now. The episode had these strange energy-based alien lifeforms that would possess the bodies of people, make their faces glow with unnatural colored light, and cause them to make strange noises. I was terrified by the episode. I suspect that seeing those pimples suddenly break out on the Mayor's face had a similarly terrifying effect on the Fairy, for the same reasons.
Ah, well. Tonya and I now find ourselves continually wondering what will strike fear into the Fairy's heart next. And we find ourselves wondering how to deal with it. I think the idea that this is nature's way of teaching kids courage probably has some merit. But since the Fairy is our oldest kid, we haven't dealt with this phenomenon before and we're playing it by ear. Do we have any readers out there who have some similar experiences with their kids? How did you deal with it? What worked? What didn't? We'd love to hear from you.