Right now we are braving the 100+ degree weather to play at the playground at our apartment complex, and I'm musing on a stage of development in Rosalind that I never thought about before. I mean, I suppose I knew it would happen, but unlike walking, talking, jumping, etc, it's not one you really think about. Right now, Rosalind is learning about Fear.
She's lived most of her life fairly fearless, though she might get nervous and clam up if she's expected to talk to a stranger, and feel anxious if she's left alone with them.
As we've visited playgrounds like this one over time, I've noticed she wants to climb this bridge ladder thing, but always gets scared and steps off. I know she wants to climb it, but I know she's afraid she will fall. She doesn't trust her ability yet.
And really, that's what fear is, isn't it? Facing the unknown?
A few nights ago, Rosalind was bouncing around her room before she went to sleep, and all of a sudden we hear, with legitimate panic in her voice, "Mommy, Daddy! There's a statue in my room! It's scary to me!!" (I love her grammar, by the way).
Sam rushed in there and discovered that, as someone outside walked in front of the streetlight, they cast a humanoid shadow on Rosalind's bedroom wall, and it frightened her. So Sam explained about shadows being the light's footprint, showed her a few fun shadow puppets, and she calmed down and was able to go to sleep.
I was a little shocked at the incident, because she's never shown any sign of being afraid of anything like that before. But she calmed down once it was explained to her, once she learned what it was.
Back to that ladder bridge at the playground. The thing that has impressed me the most since she's started noticing that some things are scary, is that she's willing to face them. Once she knew what a shadow was, she thought it was cool. Once she warms up to strangers, she considers them friends. So as I'm writing this, I'm watching her play, and she's coming back to the ladder bridge thing and trying it again. She'll try it, go off and do something else, then come back and try it again. I just watched as she intently focused on getting up the ladder, and I wondered if I should call out and tell her she should wait til she's a little more dexterous because I'm worried she'll fall, and lo and behold, she made it to the top! She stood on the platform at the top and shouted, "Mom! I did it!" And I ran over and told her I'm so happy she tried and point out that she can do hard things. Then she did it again a few minutes later! And I sat there smiling, having this weird, proud revelation as a parent that all of a sudden my little girl is learning about fear, and just as quickly, she's learning to face it. And I am proud.
I know some scarier things will come up in the future that will be harder to deal with, but I hope that she will remember that she can face her fears and do hard things. Because that is an incredibly important thing to know.