We were driving with my daughters in the car recently.
Everything was wonderful, we were all singing along to some awful-but-catchy children’s CD when my four-year-old cried out, “We’re in the air and I’m afraid of heights!” She said the last half of the sentence in this odd, bone-chilling way, like she was auditioning for a horror movie.
I didn’t think before I replied, “Since when?”
While it would be nice to have a four-year-old that is able to tell me she decided she was afraid of heights three weeks before due to a lesson in preschool about bridges, I really didn’t expect a reply at all.
But reply she did, “ForEVER mommy” and followed it up with a huge world-weary sigh to show I didn’t really know much about anything at all now, did I?
I didn’t reply again, and we didn’t talk about heights or falling or bridges or anything. Later that night I talked to my husband about what we should do. Okay, I asked him, because I had no idea how to address the issue.
He wasn’t much help. He said we should just ignore it. If she turned out to be afraid of heights forever, so be it. He said that many people were afraid of heights and lived long, wonderful lives and I shouldn’t worry about it. I, of course, thought just accepting my daughter’s developing phobia was not the right path to take.
We compromised. I’d let it go, but if it happened again I had a plan.
Next time we drove over a bridge my daughter exclaimed, “We’re on a bridge! In the air! I’m scared!”
I asked her, “Why are you scared?”
She replied, “Because we could fall.”
I countered with, “Do you think our house is going to fall down?”
She thought about it and slowly replied, “No, but our house isn’t a bridge.”
With a smile and smug air of success I said, “The bridge is made out of the same stuff our house is. It’s as safe as our house. So you don’t have to be afraid.”
She sighed—just a little one this time—and said, “Oh good, I didn’t like being afraid. I’m glad I don’t have to be anymore. Safe as a house.”
I want to be the rock-star honest mom. Really, I do. But I don’t know enough about structural engineering to explain why bridges don’t collapse.
For now I just don’t want a four-year-old with a phobia.