by Jennifer Hatcher
photo by Elisabeth Nixon Photography
When you are expecting, people seem to come out of the woodwork with parenting advice and anecdotes. You know what nobody warned me about before I entered motherhood? The crazy, irrational fears some children have.
I was prepared for a whimpering child afraid of the dark after a nightmare. I was ready for a wide-eyed, trembling child snuggled in my lap as thunder boomed and lightning flashed. But I hadn’t ever considered a 1-year-old could be terrified of grass. Grass!
There’s a lot of grass in and around small towns in Southwest Virginia. Our house was surrounded by grass when my daughter was one, which meant she spent a great deal of time standing on our cement patio, too frightened to take one step off.
The upside? We didn’t worry about her wandering away. I’d place a large quilt on the ground, set her in the middle with some toys and feel secure that she wasn’t getting off that blanket because of the scary green blades surrounding her.
That same daughter was also petrified by any flying insect. The buzzing of a bumble bee or June bug reduced her to tearful cowering in abject terror. Unfortunately, the slight hum of a housefly had an identical effect.
One especially long night, my daughter spent more than an hour crouched in the corner of her trundle bed while my husband and I chased an especially quick fly all around our home. Through breathless sobs, she declared she could not sleep until the fly was gone. It would land; we would swat; it would jet away in the nick of time. This scenario was repeated hundreds of times until I knew for sure I would lose my overly-hormonal, pregnant mind!
My youngest son had a nightmare that a giant flying roach crawled up through the shower drain. (Actually, come to think of it, that may have really happened in Florida.) As a result, he is horrified to take showers alone. Someone else must be in the bathroom with him, ready to rescue him from anything that lurks in the drain. Never mind that we don’t live in Florida anymore and there are no giant flying roaches in Virginia – childhood fears don’t understand logic.
My 9-year-old son is spooked by birds – in an Alfred Hitchcock The Birds sort of way. Of course, I didn’t know about this phobia until we were in an aviary, surrounded by hundreds of little birdies. While the other children held out craft sticks covered in birdseed and welcomed the small, colorful birds that were landing on their hands, arms, feet and heads, this son retreated to a corner where he begged his daddy to hold him and buried his head against his daddy’s chest.
People in costumes were also horribly terrifying for my daughters. When the office manager of my husband’s company had Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Snow White come to the family picnic, I’m sure she never imagined my daughters frozen in fear in the middle of the playground, tears streaming down their faces, as the happy cartoon characters came out to shake hands with all the children. More than once, other children joyfully skipped out to hug the clowns during a parade in my hometown while my children ducked behind lawn chairs panic-stricken at the thought of a clown spying them.
Of course these off-beat fears haven’t translated to a fear of things they ought to be cautious about, like strangers or falling from high places. When my second daughter was two, she marched right up to an elderly man in a restaurant and climbed onto his lap! She regularly held her arms out to complete strangers in the grocery store, asking them to hold her.
As a toddler, my oldest son would climb onto tall furniture and free-fall off, catching himself at the last minute by extending his arms in front of him – except for the times when he forgot that part and landed on his face, earning a line of carpet burn from forehead to chin.
So instead of fearing sensible things, my children have been terrified of clowns, nail clippers, fireworks and tiny dogs. Evidently, children’s fears and phobias don’t always make good sense.
Parenting is many things – being predictable isn’t necessarily one of those things. Consider yourself warned.
What unusual fears have YOUR children experienced? Comment below and tell us!
Jennifer Hatcher writes and edits from her home in Southwest Virginia, where the occasional field mouse in the garage sends a jolt of terror through her. But that’s completely rational, right?