My daughter, the one that walks and talks, is afraid of everything. It is quite a process, becoming afraid of everything. At first it was just the neighbors' chickens and large dogs. Then dragons and the wind and anybody who tries to hug her when she is tired, hungry or already scared of something else. The list of terrors is long and varied. She lives in a world in which anything is possible. There are fairies and princesses that live happily ever after. There are also goblins and wicked stepmothers and poison apples. I try to be compassionate but there are times when the ridiculousness of her phobias is only matched by the extremity of her reactions. Take last week. I had been in the house for 48 consecutive hours. Viola couldn't stop crying. Margaret had memorized all of Rapunzel's lines from Tangled. It was time to get out. Time to go to Target. Halfway there I realized I hadn't brushed Margaret's teeth. Or her hair. Or mine. Viola's crying got just this much louder. And I was flipped off on State Street because I was only driving 20 miles per hour. (You try opening a granola bar for a hungry two year old while driving with a screaming infant, Mr. Honda Accord. IT.IS.HARD.) We pulled into the Target parking lot and I began to relax. I was about to imprison my kids in a shopping cart, distract my toddler with junk food and window shop for things I can almost afford. Not too bad. The relaxation was short lived. The minute I got Margaret out of the car she began to scream. Piercing, there is a rabid dog biting my leg and he won't let go screaming.
Me: Zuzu, Margaret! Honey what is wrong?
Margaret, pointing to a flock of seagulls a few cars away: Birds! Birds, Mommy! They are going to get me! THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!
Birds. Are. Everywhere. Truer words may never have been spoken. It took a bag of popcorn, two cups of chocolate milk and a new sparkle bracelet to help her overcome that one.
That night after baths and story time and prayers, I thought about my little scared girl in her little princess bed. Sat outside her door and laughed for her simple fears. I didn't laugh long. It struck me that baby girl and I are not so different. I am laced with apprehension. Afraid of so many things, nearly all of them taken seriously and nearly all of them as harmless as a bunch of seagulls.
A few irrational things that scare me, intimidate me or generally make me nervous:
French cooking (Julia Child wants me to do WHAT to which part of the RAW, dead chicken?)
Sewing (Maybe this doesn't intimidate me so much as bore me to death...either way, very scary.)
Wearing a bathing suit without a cover up
Losing my hair (Because I swear more and more comes out in the shower every week)
Being just a Mom
Forgetting that there is nothing I would rather be than a Mom
Purple hued lipstick (I don't care what Drew Barrymore says...it just doesn't look right.)
Women my own age ( Because they must be judging me, or leaving me out, or just inviting me to do things because they feel bad for me, or....)
Death by: Plane crash, car wreck, earthquake, premature burial, drowning, snake bite, spider bite, shark bite...basically any kind of bite.
I went back into Zuzu's room and smoothed the curls away from her face. My little girl wakes up smiling every morning and eats a big bowl of grape nuts. Eats that cereal like she doesn't have a care in her little head. Like there isn't a world full of goblins and wind and BIRDS just outside our door. One huge bite at a time. That takes a pretty brave soul.
I don't know that our fears ever become more reasoned or mature. Maybe I will always be afraid. Always have to push past insecurity and trepidation. Maybe.
I do know that I will wake up smiling. And I will eat a big bowl of grape nuts like there isn't a shadow that could darken my day.
One huge bite at a time.