14 February 2011
unshool monday :: playing with fear
As I've shared before, little owlet has a big phobia of bugs. And dirt. Oh and the bush. Nature in general. She's also afraid of big man-made things falling apart. Like the trampoline. By the end of last year, she'd barely spend any time outside anywhere that wasn't a playground. It meant that she wouldn't enjoy gardening or climbing or running. She was also afraid of the ants that are all over our house. She wouldn't go anywhere alone. In recent weeks, we've been creating a space to encourage all the owlets outside, but especially her. It's working. Now she loves mud.
She catches butterflies too. She's discovered that she's not afraid of all bugs. Just most of them. But she's outside and looks with fascination rather than running inside screaming... well unless one jumps on her. She's getting there. She has a safe space that makes being outdoors fun and it makes all the phobias easier to live with. A safe space to learn from the phobias too.
Big owlet is rather fearless. She's practical and takes a scientific approach to most things. She'd remove a spider or put a half-dead rat that the cat found out of its misery, when I couldn't. Her one phobia is fire. When she was little owlet's age, Myer burnt down. It seems an age when everything is big and scary, just as they leave mama's side in a quest for greater independence. So anyway, we were at Myer the day before it burned. Next day we drove down a big hill and saw it from a distance. Big, scary fire. It burned all the toys and clothes that she'd wanted. The ones I said no to. We didn't save them. From that point on, fire has been a big scary thing for her. It's a good thing to be afraid of. We've explained that fears warn us about danger and that can be a good thing. But she has nightmares about it. Sparks from our own fire freak her out. So we built one in the backyard.
Both of the bigger owlets helped to build the fire and sat nearby while we lit it. We explained how to do it safely. Then we got on with the day... keeping an eye on it and playing nearby.
We cooked some damper and made the fire useful.
Damper - aka. backyard beer bread - was a success. Big owlet proclaimed there should be more fires! We spent the evening with her after the little ones were in bed, munching beer bread and looking at the stars, keeping a safe distance, but enjoying the fire's warmth. Talking, learning and snuggling. Reflecting on the day and all we learned, from safety, physics, biology, local history, pioneers and swaggies, to bush tucker and astronomy.
We're finding that if we work alongside their fears, rather than ignoring them or avoiding experiences because of them, we are helping the owlets overcome their fears. We create a safe environment for them where they can play and explore their fears, or just get comfortable near them, and the world doesn't seem like such a big scary place. It always helps when we are nearby too. Pottering, working and playing and demonstrating why those scary things aren't so scary after all, but just part of everyday life.
Now if someone can just do the same for me and my little height phobia...