the “fear” post

ignore this image

I’ve noticed Baby Bug is a bit of a drama queen when she thinks she might get attention for being afraid. I don’t mean to belittle fear at all because I know things can be very very scary to a two-year-old. But I’ve also noticed that sometimes she “acts it out”.   

Maybe we’ve read too many books and watched too many TV shows about the subject of fear. I don’t think this is the case with most children but I actually do think that Baby Bug learned how to act afraid from these shows and books.

She’s taken to pointing at my jacket that hangs on the back of her bedroom door and started saying, “scary eyes!”. Then she’ll hug me with all her might and bury her head in my chest. Five seconds later she’ll laugh and smile like that was the funniest game ever. Let’s do it again! Ha Ha!

I know she is not seeing any real “scary eyes” because it’s not like she’s quivering with fear when she says it. I can’t see any scary eyes when I look at my old lumpy green coat but then I’m an adult and I’ve long learned to not see those sorts of things anymore. But the kicker is that she says this in the daytime and not at night when a lump of a coat in the dark might look like something scary.

I think she is thinking of this Berenstein Bear book about being afraid of the dark. It might be a little too old for her. She might also be thinking of a Curious George show about how coats on a rack look like a giraffe or something. I don’t remember the episode exactly. Or maybe not. Who knows. I’m just the mom around here. Maybe she is just making stuff up because she can.

So I’ve been thinking… should I not be reading her these books about fear when she doesn’t even really know what it is yet? Or is she just acting things out because she can and she’s dramatic like that? Oh she is… one of these days I have to tell you about how she feigns shyness when strangers talk to her. She’s a total faker!

But anyway I’m wondering if the power of suggestion was a bad thing or if this is just her way of playing. After all “play” is how kids figure things out right? Am I giving her tools to help her with fear or am I pushing her into being afraid a little too soon? OR am I just plain thinking too much! Probably the latter.

Speaking of power of suggestion, one day while in the mall I was explaining to my mom on the phone why I wasn’t going to take Baby Bug to see Santa. Not thinking about Little Miss Big-Ears sitting in the stroller next to me, I might have said something like, “I’m not going to take her to sit on some scary old man’s lap.”  And of course Bug heard me and remembered and started telling me she was afraid of a scary old man all the time.

At first I panicked. What scary old man could she be talking about? When had she been around a scary old man?  I couldn’t think of any time. She is always so sociable with elderly people.  At times I’ve been afraid of their well-meaning but somewhat scary faces coming at her so close and thought, oh no, she’s gonna scream. But no, she just smiles back and is as friendly as ever. I’m so proud of her lack of prejudice.

I asked her about it and finally put two and two together that she was talking about the “scary old man” she overheard from my phone conversation. Me and my big mouth. I really have to start paying attention to what I’m saying when she’s around.  Never underestimate the power of suggestion. She wasn’t afraid at all. She was just parroting something I said. She does that.

A few times she’s woken up crying at night with real fear and I’ve asked her, “Did you have a bad dream?” She’ll nod and cuddle but that’s as far as that goes. I don’t know if she even really knows what a bad dream is. Someone told me once not to ask her what her dream was about because if it was a nightmare it will be harder for her to go back to sleep if the memory doesn’t fade. So I don’t. But I’m oh-so-curious.

What’s funny is sometimes in the middle of the day when she is not sleeping, she’ll get startled by something like a loud noise outside and turn to me and say, “Mommy! I had a bad dream!” 

I have to chuckle.  She’s associating having a bad dream with being startled or afraid.  It amazes me sometimes how she communicates so well with her limited vocabulary. She might not have all the words but she’ll put the ones she does know together to say what she wants to say.

I’m not terribly worried about her pretending to be afraid. I think she’s just being Baby Bug and doing “her thing” but part of me wonders when the real fear will kick in and how she will deal with it. I had terrible nightmares as a kid. I hope she doesn’t take after me.


  • Mamma

    It may have just been a street noise that woke her up, something that is so common you don’t pay attention anymore. Try asking her what woke her up, she may not even know–just awake in the dark and wants some attention to put everything back “in place.”

  • Sarah

    My niece loves to act scared! IT is one of her favorite things, I think she is starting to grow out of it though, so there is hope for you yet!

  • Sam

    I would guess, it’s just something they all go through…I remember the Green Bean Kid doing the same sort of stuff at around this age. She would talk about monsters in the woods behind her house.

  • Kuky

    Isabelle plays scared too sometimes. Just the other day I was trying to get her to go to sleep and she was pretending. She pulled the blankets over herself and pretended to shiver and said, “scead! scead!” (you know in that kiddie mispronounced way). Then she asked for hugs and kisses. She cracks me up, I love my silly girl.

  • SmockLady

    I have never heard of NOT talking about bad dreams. Anytime one of my children says they have a bad dream we always talk about it. I think in particular it has helped more than hurt. Only twice have any of them ever said they did not want to talk about it when I asked them. Talking about the bad dreams seems to help them because I can explain (whether limited by their age or not) and help me through whatever scared them.

    I am not saying you should talk about the bad dreams, but it might actually help you figure out what is really scaring her and what is not scaring her. The hardest thing to do in these discussions is not to put words in the little mouth or lead them on – let the little one do the explaining and leading.

    I have even done this when it is obvious that it is just playing scared. It’s all about role play. It is amazing what mommy shubble and baby shubble can discover and talk about.

  • Ami

    I do not fear those pale green pants with nobody inside them!
    I said and said and said those words,
    I said them…but I lied them!

    Best Dr. Seuss story EVER.

  • BeachMama

    We do and don’t talk about bad dreams here. It really depends on the nighttime reaction that comes along with it. J usually comes into our room and if he is wide awake and a little scared we ask him about his dream so we can reassure him that it is just nothing. If he is really sleepy we let him fall back asleep and ask him in the morning.

    We do find that if a book gives him a scared reaction, we will read it again during the day to explain it or we just put it away for a while and try again another time.

    You’ll find her groove. And don’t worry lots of kids are great at the Drama, it gives them the attention they crave :).

  • Uncle George

    SAJ: Don’t worry so much…She’s got to learn to deal with it some day. Acting, drama, they are all part of testing the boundaries of life. She will be a tough little muffin, believe me. She’s Toby’s daughter, remember! (My little Bro is one tough customer!).

    G. :-)

  • Gramma

    Drama Queen? Not yet, maybe just a little drama princess. I think all of our gang had a touch or drop of Sara Bernhardt’s or Talullah Bankhead ‘s blood coursing through their veins. Always it was brought to the surface at appropriat sometimes inappropriate) times for effect. Does she have an imaginary friend yet? Sometimes sharing the panic attack helps.

  • Susan

    My nieces pretend to be “afraid” all the time. Boogie Bears is what they call most things. We worried about it at first but realized it was all imagination and that is a beautiful thing. My mom always discussed our bad dreams with us. I remember a few of them to this day but I learned to not be afraid of them. It will all work out.

  • mamalang

    The Monster likes to be afraid, so it’s hard to battle those bad dreams…he chooses the scary. I always give them the option of talking about it if they want, or not if that’s their choice. I had heard that about not talking about it cause it could make it worse, but sometimes they need to tell you in order to work it out. I figure they have the ability to work that out. It is hard though. Good luck.

  • Marilyn

    I’m thinking about her thinking Mozart wearing Xmas lights in that picture I posted for her as “scary man.” Which, I suppose, to her eyes…he IS. :) This is a hard one to figure out with wee ones…how to juggle the whole balancing act of trying to protect them without leading them through suggestion. It’s awfully cute that she equates ‘bad dream’ with being startled…because, you know, startling moments ARE sort of waking bad dreams.