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On Being Brave

I hate bugs.  Like, fear-and-loathing kinds of hate.  And so, the other day when Little L flipped open her book on eggs and was studying the picture of the egg sac of a spider, I had 'Nam-esque flashbacks to when our old place had that spider infestation.  Instinctively, I shuddered and exclaimed, "Yuck! Disgusting!,"and immediately after that, Little L began to do the same.

A genius IQ or PhD in psychology is hardly necessary to figure out that toddlers learn by mimicking their parents.  It's all part of the developmental process, which is why a whole subsection of the toy industry is devoted to making fake mini-versions of real-life, adult products (including mini-Dyson vacuums! A bit over the top, if you ask me).

But that was a wake-up call to me, because I had never considered, up to that point, that perhaps I could be inadvertently passing along phobias (of bugs, drowning, the dark, cluster textures and clowns) to Little L based on my behaviour and words.  Upon reflection, I realized that my hydrophobia can be traced back to my mom's own fear of drowning in a pool.  Likewise, some of my bug aversions are a result of traumatic bug-related incidents (involving moths, spiders, and creepy hard-shelled carpet bugs that required a hammer to destroy) that began in childhood, and still gives me nightmares to this day.

I don't want Little L to be able to trace back phobias to her experiences in childhood, and I don't want to pass along my fears, either.  It's not fair to her as-yet-unsullied psyche to introduce these biases, nor are my fears particularly rational (unlike a fear of strangers or a fear of being burned by a hot stove, which are good and healthy fears that I definitely want to pass along).

So I guess that means that I need to pay attention to what I'm saying and not saying, and the messages that I am communicating by my behaviour and body language.  And I need to be brave, which is kind of hard to do when I spot a behemoth of a moth just chilling on my wall, or notice a baby spider scooting across Little L's foam mat.  In fact, it is a nearly-impossible feat, requiring me to muster every ounce of self-control not to freak out or react in a way that might suggest that I am coming undone inside.

Since the spider sac incident, I have been intentionally noting to Little L how "cool" it is that the heinous ball of spider sh!t contains little eggs, and how wonderful it is that God designed eggs in all of these different ways.  Over time, I have been able to mostly "undo" the effects of my initial reaction, although from time to time she will still look at the picture and say, "Yuck!" or "Creepy!"

But I have to be ever so self-aware when it comes to my phobias, and always consider how this impressionable little person is looking to me for answers, for assessments of good and bad and lovely and nasty, and for a model of how to respond to different things in her world.  Because I want her to be brave, I guess it means that I have to suck it up and try to be brave, even when I'm not.  And in so many big and little things, I really am not brave at all. Thank God I took drama classes! ;)

How do you keep your phobias from influencing your littles' opinions? Have your own aversions already been passed along to your kids? How have you "undone" those first impressions?

My little tabula rasa



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