Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Funny Thing About Fear

At 5:18 a.m. this morning, I opened my eyes and instantly knew I would not doze back off again.  Rather than lie there for the next 27 minutes waiting for my alarm to go off, I rolled out of bed and stumbled downstairs to visit my best friend, Mr. Keurig.  After feeding Mr. Keurig a tiny plastic cup filled with magic, he showed me his gratitude by producing one perfectly brewed cup of sustaining life blood coffee.  By the time I returned to my bedroom, coffee in hand, it was only 5:27.  I had more than enough time to shower and dress before the kiddos emerged from their little caves and began to plunder the pantry at 6:05.

Unfortunately, I made one tiny error that led to very big drama.  I forgot to turn off my alarm clock.  Sounds like no big deal, right?  Wrong.

My alarm clock is extremely polite and thoughtful, which seems like a good thing.  It is one of those alarms that starts off quiet and low and gradually crescendos, getting louder and louder the longer it takes you to get your lazy butt up and turn it off.  This clock makes none of the heart attack-inducing shrieks like I used to endure from my $3 digital alarm clock I used in college-- at least, I didn't think it did.   Silly me, I always turn off the alarm before it finishes its second or third beep.  I've not heard the thing do much more than whisper good morning to me in a very long time.  This morning, however, while I was showering, my alarm clock got to really test out its "lungs" and reached its full shrieking potential (which was surprising and impressive).

When I first heard the alarm, I thought oh crap.  I forgot to turn that thing off.  That thought was quickly followed by how long have I been in here?  Did I doze off in the shower?!  And then by well, hopefully it won't get too loud before I can get in there.  I need to finish shaving my legs!  Fatal mistake, I have to admit.  The legs could have waited.

The next thing I heard coming from my bedroom sounded very much a battering ram hitting my bedroom door, followed by Birdie shouting "Mom!  Oh my God, Mom!  Where are you, Mom?  Hey Sissy, Mom is gone!!"  I leaned my head out of the shower and shouted Birdie's name, but all I heard was her heavy footsteps clamoring down the stairs.  OH CRAP!  

I jumped out of the shower, three-quarters of one leg still foamy with shaving cream, grabbed my towel off the hook, and booked it out of my room in a panic.  Something similar to this happened last summer, and if I didn't hurry, Birdie would be putting out an APB, asking all the neighbors if they had seen her mother.  I rushed past Princess in the hall and practically threw her out of the way as she sobbed "Mommy has left us here all ah-looone.  Who's going to pour my milk at breakfast if the jug is too full?"  I nearly broke my leg, and every-damn-thing else as I ran down the stairs.  How is this kid clearing these floors so quickly?!  I caught Birdie at the front door, just as she was about to go out and search for me.  She burst into tears of relief and then quickly followed them with a diatribe on how I should keep my children informed of my whereabouts at all times.  She then sobbed about being afraid that I had left them alone.  It broke my heart a little-- then I realized I was wrapped in a towel and dripping shaving cream in my foyer.  I could have pointed out to Birdie that she neglected to check my bathroom, in which the shower was running, but it was pretty obvious that that wasn't going to help the situation.  Instead, I returned to finish getting ready for work, while Birdie tried not to snarf cereal through her nose in between sobs at the breakfast table.

While I was finishing in the shower, I couldn't help but wonder where this fear is coming from.  I haven't ever forgotten them or left them alone before, have I?  (It's sad that I am not 100% certain about this, but I am pretty sure.  The first two years of their lives are fuzzy, but not that fuzzy.)

But then it occurred to me that fear is rarely as rational as we would like to think it is.  Take, for instance, my fear of clowns.  I never, personally, had an ill encounter with a clown as a child, and yet they have creeped me out to the point of sheer anxiety for as long as I can remember.  I mean, really.  How freakin' weird is it that a grown-ass man (and let's face it, most all clowns are men) wants to wear crazy, doll-like clothes and paint his face into a mask of perpetual glee?!  Do you really think for one second that he woke up one day and said "I want to be a clown!  I LOVE to make children happy!"  More likely, he woke up one day and said "How can I convince children that I am fun and NOT creepy, so that they will play with me?  I LOVE having children make ME happy.  I know!  I will buy a van with no windows and fill it with balloons and face paint and I will dress up like a clown and call myself Happy.  It's a sure thing."  To make matters worse, there was a birthday clown in Mississippi that we would constantly run into around town.  And no, I did not know him personally... I knew he was a clown because he was always in costume.  I distinctly remember literally "running into" this thing at a local restaurant one day at lunch, and I was scarred for life.  I turned just as he turned and we practically had full-frontal contact-- and that's when all my fears were confirmed.  Well, Mr. Happy, is that a bicycle horn in your pocket, or are you just happy to see my children?  UGH!!

Not to be outdone, Princess is afraid of rooms with high ceilings.  The first few times she became scared because of high ceilings, I couldn't get her to explain her fears.  The National Air and Space Museum was particularly scary to her.  Finally, on our way to the National Aquarium in Baltimore this past Spring "Break", I got her to explain.  Apparently, Princess is afraid that if she is in a high-ceilinged space and there is a "temporary gravity failure", she would float too high and then crash down a long way when the "gravity came back on."  Oh.  Not sure rational is even worth the effort on this one.  Wonder if I should ask her what she'd do if gravity failed when she was outside?  Naaaaah!  

The only other ridiculous fear at my house is Birdie and Princess's shared fear of backwards counting.  My girls can be willfully and actively ignoring every single word that comes out of my mouth.  I can threaten and scream and pitch a fit and get no response... but let me start counting backwards from five. You would think that I promised bodily harm, when in fact, I probably have no idea what I would do if I ever got to one.  (Some fears work in Mommy's favor, it would seem.)

*photo found on Pinterest
The remainder of my family's fears are pretty run of the mill, even if they are unexplained.  Besides pervs clowns, I am really only afraid of scurrying things like mice and spiders and roaches.  You know-- the usual suspects.  Birdie, obviously, is afraid of abandonment and being alone.  She is also afraid of heights, which is uncharacteristic for her age.  (Most kids have to be begged to be mindful of heights, but not Miss Safetypants.)  Both of my children fear needles.  Remember blood shots?  Both become crazed lunatics in the presence of needles.  Birdie channels Linda Blair simultaneously with Bobcat Goldthwait when she sees needles.  Princess cries and kicks.  It's ugly.

So even though Birdie's fearful overreaction this morning was more than a little irrational, we all lose our goop over irrational things once in awhile.  I have no leg to stand on when judging others' fears-- except with the clown thing.  They are all definitely worthy of a wide berth.  Freaks.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post ... I read an article yesterday about how EVERYONE is disabled ... whether it is your fear of clowns, fearful of speaking in public etc we all have our quirks! No one has absolutely everything 'together' .. I think it makes us who we are and keeps life a little interesting.