Dora the Explorer is interrupted with a honking warning sound as the emergency broadcast system is being tested. "Tomato!" "Tomato!" my daughter starts shouting and crying at the same time. She is 3 and thinks that this warning sound means that we are about to have a tornado. Not that she knows anything about tornados. She has never seen or been in one, I have never spoken about one, and I am not afraid of one happening here myself. But for some reason she thinks that something dangerous is about to happen - not to mention that they are only testing the emergency broadcast system.
How do we become afraid and more importantly how do we stop the fear. For her, it must be just an urgent and scary noise that has interrupted the normal dullness of the routine and Dora's perky quest to find the missing treasure. As we grow up we learn to fear things that seem to be more possible each day.
I hold her and reassure her and lie promising that we will never have a tornado here and that everything is fine and safe and that I will protect her forever. It seems to work for the time being, but I feel a little guilty with my promises, even though she is only three years old.
Now that she is nine, I still make promises that I cannot keep. When my mother died she immediately made the connection that I could die one day as well. I promised her that she will always be OK and that I wont die for a very long time. My four year old is unfased, "I am sorry your mother died he says, obviously mimicing what others before him have said. Then he says we are all going to die but not for a very long time", mimicing what I have said.
Everyone has fears. Here is my incomplete list: I am afraid of dying, leaving my kids, getting cancer, getting old, getting fat, getting Alzheimer's disease, spending too much money, losing a child, looking stupid, looking incompetent, dying in a plane crash, food poisoning, high fructose corn syrup, insomnia, and global warming.
We all have fears but we somehow manage to keep them at bay. If we did not, we couldn't function. I think it is because as humans we are stupid. We actually think that these things won't happen if we don't think about them. Some of us try to face our fears, but really what does that do. You know that old saying we have nothing to fear but fear itself - that seems ridiculous to me. There are a lot of things that we really should be afraid of. We just need to think about the reality - later.
That must be why we have TV! Television, whatever your poison be it the Real Housewives of Orange County or the Bachelor or Iron Chef allows us to not think about our fears. In fact, it is usually when I am lying in bed at night when the house is quiet and my husband begins to snore that I think about my list at all. The trick must be to keep occupied with all the other stuff. Maybe the interruption in Dora is what did it to my daughter. Maybe kids are smarter than we think.
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