It started about a week ago. Shine was taking a bath, happily splishsplashing about when she saw some toe fluff moving towards her from the other end of the bath. Intrigued at first, she watched it drift and twirl about in the bath current. Then, as if someone flicked a switch, she was screaming and hurling herself out of the bath, throwing herself at me and trying to attach herself to my neck like a baby monkey. Holding her close to me as she sobbed I could feel her little heart pounding and pressing through her rib cage with every beat. I could see the sheer terror she was experiencing manifest itself physically as her body became covered in a red blotchy rash that faded when she eventually calmed down.
This wasn’t a stroppy toddler wanting out of the bath. No, my little minkeymoo is experiencing her first real taste of fear. Since that night she won’t go near the bath without screaming and for a couple of days after the fluff incident even mentioning the word bath, or watching Sun take a bath, would upset her.
I think it’s fairly common around this age (18mths) to develop fears and phobias. Although Sun didn’t have any, I remember a friend’s little girl developing a fear of having tops put on over her head, and another little boy I know developed a fear of the dark seemingly overnight (no pun intended). I guess at this stage their imaginations are developing at light speed and what looks like toe fluff to you or I obviously was a terrifying threat in Shine’s mind. When I think about it like that, I can see where she’s coming from actually.
You see, I’m scared of fish. Before you laugh too hard, I’m not scared of them in a dead state sitting on my plate at the table, just in their living form. And I’m not talking about sharks or killer whales either, I’m talking any fish, schools of small fish in particular. My rational mind knows they can’t hurt me but that’s the thing about fear – it’s not rational.
So for now I am trying to help Shine overcome the utter terror she feels when faced with the bath. I want to help her relax and enjoy the water again. This fear couldn’t have come at a worse time either. We’re three weeks away from a trip to Sydney where there will be ocean on our doorstep – that’s one mighty BIG bath – as well as swimming pools and rock pools to explore. It will be tricky, from a totally practical point of view, if she’s terrified by the water. Practicalities aside, it will be really upsetting for both of us. I will be devastated if she can’t share my love of the water. I know she might not always love the same things as I do, but this would be a hard pill to swallow if she not only dislikes it, but is actually scared of it.
I am therefore on a mission to do my best to help her overcome her fear…and preferably in the next 21 days. First I did what lots of desperate parents do, I threw money at the problem. I bought new bath toys thinking she couldn’t possibly resist their lure. Nope. Didn’t work. Then I upped the ante and bought bubble bath. I let Sun frolic amongst the bubbles, while Shine watched nervously on, then I tried to dip her toe in the bath. Nope. Screaming ensued. We’ve taken to sponging her down for now and last night she was curious about the bubbles in the sink, enough to learn how to say ‘bubbles’ for the first time. So today I filled a mixing bowl with bubbles, tipped the water away keeping just the bubbles, plopped a wooden spoon in the bowl and sat down with her to see if I could get her touching the bubbles and begin to break through her fears.
I feel like a teeny step forward has been taken as by the end of half an hour of me playing with the bubbles and showing her they couldn’t hurt me in any way, Shine joined in! She eventually sat on her own putting her hands in the bowl and playing with the bubbles, without tears or fear. Tonight I’ll see if she’ll touch them while Sun has a bath in the hope that we can baby step our way back to her going in the bath again.
Anyone who has been here before and found a way to help their child overcome their fear please feel free to share your tips! I’ll try anything!