Hi, my name is Jennifer and I have two irrational fears; spiders and being misunderstood. I have a 6 year old named Natalie who has an extremely irrational fear of people looking at her, watching her, seeing her, and even looking in her general direction. I do not understand it. It is not just a small bothersome issue. It is becoming a rather large issue.
Take swimming lessons for example. During week one of swimming lessons she sat on the bleachers in her clothes, with her tears sitting in her eyes ready to drop when needed, watching swimming lessons just so she would know what was going to happen. She is not afraid of the water. She is not afraid of the teacher. Her best friend is even in the class. I mean I worked very hard to create a, "swimming lesson utopia" for Natalie. And what is she afraid of? People watching her. I keep trying to explain to her that when you cry, and sob, and wail about doing something that is what makes people look at you. I have tried to explain that the other mom's and dad's are watching their kids not her. But no amount of reasoning can convince her that everyone, everywhere is not looking at her.
At her second swim lesson I resolved that I was NOT going to pay $75.00 for her to sit, with the tears ready, on the bleachers again. So I was nice and kind all week as we had constant swimming lesson discussions around our house and then the minute we walked into the room where the pool was I became...dah dah da dah...."Mrs. Matter of Fact," much to the glee, of the other parents ( because we do love it when it is someone else's kid is causing the ruckus don't we?) I just dragged her kicking and screaming to the edge of the pool and plopped her into her teachers waiting arms. She sobbed for about 10 minutes and then she was fine. Then at about 20 minutes into the lesson the teacher sheepishly asks if the parents who are watching the lesson could please leave the room. WHAT? Yes, my 6 year old had convinced the swimming teacher to send everyone away so she could swim without being "watched." Yes, even I had to leave. Luckily, one mom was smart and asked Natalie if she could stay and watch her child swim and Natalie graciously said, "yes." All the other parents caught on and all asked permission from the 6 year old to stay and watch their kids swim.
I keep thinking about how I USED to have a very irrational fear of driving in the snow. I would never go anywhere when it snowed. And not just when it was actually snowing but for days after the snow fell. Then, when we lived in Indiana we acquired an early morning paper route and I HAD to drive in the snow and, guess what? I was fine. Being forced to face it helped me to figure out how to be "one with the snow." I got stuck in the snow once and figured out all by myself how to move my tires and think bad words in my mind to help me to get out. :)
I also USED to be afraid of missing my airplane. And then it happened one time and guess what? Everything was fine.
I am not saying I am going to run out to get a pet spider. And I am definitely not saying I have a psychology degree. But I do think I am beginning to wonder if being forced to face what we are afraid of may not be such a bad thing?