View From Table 9

August 4, 2008

Epiphany

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 5:45 am
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Of all the traits my son possesses, the one I find most fascinating (daunting, terrifying) is that he has no fear. He will climb anything, jump off anything, jump over or crawl under, run headlong into the wind, laugh with pure joy while hurtling through space on great big roller coasters. When he is hurt, he cries from pain but not fear of that pain, which means he cries for a shorter period of time and is more easily calmed.

An observer once commented that this was the sign of a very secure person. I don’t think that’s untrue. I do believe most fear is learned, and that we’ve done much in his first six years to create a world that is not scary for him, seem uncontrollable or unpredictable. Mostly, we just hold on tight watching him. He didn’t earn the nickname “Danger Dan” because he’s a scaredy-cat.

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are some children in his life whom he reacts to differently. They are the spark to his dynamite, for lack of a better word. With most kids he’s pretty normal in his behavior, but there are a few who bring out the daredevil in him. Repeatedly. Last summer he had a peaceful 6 weeks at preschool camp until one child returned from another camp. Then, my son got in ‘time out’ every day for the last 3 weeks of summer for doing crazy stunts, etc.

So, we observed. During the school year we noticed that a few kids (including the summer-camp child) were being mentioned as co-conspirators in his (mis)adventures, some named by teachers, though not always. We worked to role-play and teach him that one should not always make that arm-fart when one’s friends insist it would be funny even though the teacher said it’s quiet time. Things got a little better. A little.

Then, comes this summer, his first in ‘real’ camp. We agree to carpool with one of Danno’s ‘sparks’, who happens to live nearby and with whom carpooling is very convenient for both families. Besides, these two kids really enjoy playing with each other. We also went on a camping trip with another of his ‘sparks’. What I realize now is that this gave us some really good opportunity to observe the dynamic between Danno and his ‘sparks’.

What I saw was this: These are both children whom are the opposite of Dan in their fear factor. One is deeply insecure, even for a 6 year old. The other is really quite timid when you get past the bravado. Both seem to have an odd fascination with my son, seeming to challenge him to ever more dangerous activities, watching intently as he does them with glee.  Most importantly, that it really bothers them when Danno rises again and again to the challenge without hesitation.

That’s when I saw it. They’re afraid. They’re deeply envious and at the same time fascinated by the fact that he’s not afraid. And they *want* him to be afraid just like they are, want it in a very jealous and almost vindictive way. Want to say ‘see, that’s how it feels to be afraid. See, you’re just as scared as the rest of us.’ They want him to be intimidated and stilled.

Now I see what we must teach him: We must show him this in people, how to recognize it, understand it, and most importantly to guard against it. We’ve also got to protect him from this, too, as he learns, because his experience and risk judgment skills are that of a 6 year old not a 36 year old. These children aren’t alone, nor are they the only ‘sparks’ he will encounter in his life. It’s our job to give him the skills to navigate his world, ground him in values that will serve him well, and give him a secure place from which to make those wondrous leaps. Because the only thing we really do have to fear is fear itself.

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