I have had the privilege in recent weeks of observing my son's burgeoning awareness of his surroundings - particularly the scary parts. Things for which he never really cared about one way or another before, he's suddenly developed a sense of reservation and caution about. While little Jimmy has some pretty standard six year old fears, he's also got a fairly active imagination (I have NO idea where that came from). To me, this combo translates into a lot of laughs privately, and a lot of motherly guidance for my son.
One of Jimmy's new phobias is bears. He's afraid of a large number of bears chasing him. . . (ya, just let that one sink in for a moment). I think this little nightmare was concocted after a trip to Blue Springs a few months back wherein we observed FOUR (yes, you read that right, FOUR!) bears in trees over the boardwalk down by the boil; there were three baby cubs and one Mama bear. Feeling like the bear-whispering Florida natives that we are, we took a few moments to coo and awe over them before heading back to the swimming area. Unfortunately the thought of these bears somehow tracking our return to the picnic area or worse yet, our home, stuck with little Jimmy. And I'm sure it didn't help that I shared with him the story of how his Nana as a child was chased by an angry Mama bear and scarcely evaded a certain mauling thanks to her quick thinking Father who scooped her up and swept her to safety just in the nick of time! Phew! This was one of my favorite childhood stories of adventure which I begged my mom on a nearly daily basis to retell. So ya, a fear of being chased by bears seems kind of normal for this six year old to me.
Jimmy's also admitted rather shyly to me that he's also afraid of the 'D' word: the dark. This also strikes me as a very typical misgiving of a six year old. Every night he reminds me to shut his closet door because his closet is even creepier and darker than his bedroom at night; the closet is more or less a blackened abyss with no beginning or end in sight, which gives no forewarning of just what may be lurking within and about to come come out and attack. (For the record, no, little Jimmy has never seen Little Monsters, and at present I'd like to keep it that way). But really, I think the fear of dark is something we all have to one degree or another - at least figuratively speaking. No one really wants to ponder what atrocities may lie just around the next corner of life - or just out of the realm of sight. I think we all face the darkness of the unknown with a bit of trepidation.
Another genuine fear my son has, which actually brought tears to my eyes when I realized just how serious this fear was, is his fear of my old baby dolls. When I was helping my parents move a while back we found a couple of these antiquated plastic dolls my sister and I used to play with as kids. They were great mainly because they were made of plastic, and you could take them in the tub and bathe them just the way any little Mommy would bathe a real baby. One afternoon in search of some activity to occupy a single 15 minute block of the day, I put the kids in the bathtub along with one of the plastic baby dolls much to Kyla's delight. Jimmy didn't see the baby doll at first as he was busy filling up cups of water or attempting to create a waterfall or something to that effect. But when he realized the scary baby doll was in the tub with him he was outta there in no time flat. "No, Kyla! Put that scary baby doll out of the tub!" he yelled at her while climbing out of the tub at lightning speed and keeping a steady eye on the horrific plastic creature cradled in her hands. Kyla has come to understand her brother's angst over her new dolls, and it isn't in the least bit uncommon for her to terrorize Jimmy with them. Just this morning Kyla was chasing after Jimmy and giggling delightedly as he ran away from the doll screaming "NO, KYLA! That baby doll's eyes are scary! They're all messed up!"
And while baby dolls bear some resemblance to their human counterparts, there really is nothing quite as alarming as an actual live human being who's unintentionally scary for one reason or another. Such was the case when we were shopping at a children's resale store about a month ago. I first noticed the person of topic when we exited the dressing room. She was a super skinny younger woman (possibly a teenager) who wore a shirt that scarcely covered her bra (assuming she was wearing one); her belly was pierced and adorned with some rather eye-catching piece of body art, and her teeny tiny shorts were cut well below the belly bling so as to fully display the piercing and anything else she might want to show off in all its splendor and glory. I have to say even I was shocked when I saw her; I actually inadvertently did a double take, and then forced myself not to gawk. As I continued searching the racks, I could hear some snip-its of the bizarre conversation that was ensuing between the woman and the clerk, and it struck me that this person was likely on drugs of some kind. I felt bad for her, but at least I had a better idea of how she may have selected her wardrobe. Jimmy and Kyla were playing excitedly with their newly selected Halloween costumes while I hunted for the elusive slim OshKosh pants that little Jimmy wears, when Jimmy ran up to me in a frenzy. "MOMMY!" he whisper-yelled. "That lady isn't wearing ANYthing! She forgot to get dressed! And she has metal poking out of her stomach!". His shock and fear were palpable. I tried my best to calm him down without chuckling audibly, but he was most definitely disturbed by what he saw.
There's a lot of scary stuff in life. Some of it fully warrants our leeriness, and some of it is more within our imaginations. Either way, it's interesting and comical to observe a child's mind coming to grips with all the frightening possibilities which surround it. Life through a child's eyes is a beautiful and frequently amusing thing - even the scary parts.