Our almost 7 year old daughter has always been pretty independent. She prefers being around other people, but she never had a problem playing alone in her room once the toys were spread out in front of her. Lately however, I’ve noticed a change in her. She has become afraid. Afraid of being alone, afraid of the dark, afraid of the ceiling in her room, afraid of mosquitoes, bees, wasps, and bugs of any kind except butterflies of course. Did I mention afraid of being out my sight?
I’m not sure what to do about this. I think it’s pretty normal to have these kid fears, but I must say, I’m a bit concerned, too. I don’t want her to be this afraid. I want her to be self confident – strong even. I feel like I did when she was two years old and wasn’t supposed to be left alone. It’s a bit smothering, and since I am used to having a teeny bit of breathing room, this new phase is not that fun for me.
Since the summer has started, her fear of bees is really becoming an issue. Every single time we go outside, she looks around frantically to see if there are any bees, and when she does see one, she screams and runs in the opposite direction. She would prefer to just stay inside where there are no bees.
“Emma, quit screaming every time you see a little bee!” her older brother Sebastian says to her (clearly annoyed) as we walk down the sidewalk.
“Sweetie, you have never been stung by a bee. Bees do not want to sting you,” my husband offers. “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.”
She doesn’t buy it. “But Mama got stung once!” she defends.
“That’s because I stepped on it,” I say. “In my bare feet,” I add. “And, it was already dead. I just happened to step on the stinger part.” This is true.
It doesn’t really matter to her, though. She’s still terrified.
As a little girl, I remember being afraid, too. I was afraid of the dark a little bit, and yes, I was afraid of bees. I don’t remember being afraid to the point where I didn’t leave my Mom’s side, though. I wonder if maybe I am doing something wrong. Am I pushing her too hard to try new things? Are we letting her watch too much TV or play computer games with too much violence? Maybe she doesn’t have enough freedom living in NYC? I always struggle with living in the city versus living in the country and giving the kids more space to grow. But, honestly, I don’t know. I don’t remember Sebastian going through this when he was going into second grade. Are boys different from girls in this way? It sort of just happened, so I haven’t really talked it over with anyone yet. I’d love to know if there is some magic spell for these kid fears. Anyone?
The other day I was getting Emma’s bath ready and she was happily playing in her bedroom next to the bathroom. I remembered that I needed something upstairs, so I went.
“Mama! Where are you?” She called out loudly and with a hint of panic. “I’m upstairs!” I called back. She bounded up the stairs like she had seen a ghost and grabbed onto my leg. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “What happened?” “Nothing.” she said. She was breathing hard and was clearly upset. “I just didn’t know where you were.” “Don’t be silly. I just went upstairs for a second.”
Later, when I was giving her her bath, I asked why she was following me around so much lately. “I don’t know,” she answered, looking down. “I’m just afraid.”
“What are we going to do about this?” I asked her. She shrugged. There was a long pause as we both thought about this.
“Should I just stay with you for awhile?” I asked. She looked up at me from the tub and her face brightened. “Ok.”
So, I’m staying close…for now.