The fight-or-flight response (also called the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival (www.wikipedia.org).
In layman’s terms, if you are exposed to something that scares you, you will either put on your game face and confront the situation, or shit your pants and run the other way.
Repeated exposure seems to be the gold standard as far as desensitization to the feared stimulus goes. Personally, I don’t agree with it, but then again, I have absolutely no desire to confront any of my fears, ever. I’m cool with them. I’m over here and they’re waaaaay over there. Although probably not the preferred method, at the end of the day, I choose avoidance. It works for me.
It gets a bit more tricky when dealing with my children. Of course I don’t want to raise a bunch of irrational pussies, but who am I to judge what they should or should not be afraid of? I’m sure they have their reasons, just as I do with my seemingly absurd phobia of loose change and persistent fear of cats.
My oldest child is spot on with age appropriate fears. Mean kids, mommy not being home to tuck her in at night, the house starting on fire, the boogie man, etc., etc. My middle child is pretty much scared of everything nonrelated to unicorns and rainbows, which basically falls under the “anything that is real” category (i.e. heights, blood, uneven terrain, dying in general, mommy dying, daddy dying, anyone dying, playground equipment, clowns, the sky falling, swimming (and thereby drowning), the sun burning up and as a result, the earth dying, etc., etc.). She’s a thinker that one. Quite honestly, I frequently get scared sideways answering her questions about hypothetical situations I have never even considered as an adult. Regardless, I have an uncanny ability to very convincingly pull shit out of my ass under the most dire of circumstances, especially when the target audience is under the age of ten and easily distracted by sugary snacks. “Who wants a cookie?”
Most of the above mentioned fears are legitimate and therefore worthy of some discussion. I can at the very least empathize with them and try to offer reasonable explanations that will most often diffuse the situation and minimize any lingering nightmares as a result. That said, there are limits to what I am capable of as a parent.
My son is scared of stickers (insert eye roll here). Stickers. Actually anything with an adhesive back (i.e. band aids, tape, postage stamps, temporary tattoos, wall decals, and so on and so forth). You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal?” To which I would respond, “You do NOT understand.”
Riddle me this. What is the first thing all medical professionals, friendly cashiers, the librarian, police officers, the haircut lady, teachers (really any public figure outside of your home), offers your child as a parting gift for good behavior at the conclusion of your visit to their establishment?”
“Would little buddy like a sticker?”
Smile. “No thank you.”
“Oh, c’mon mom, let little buddy have a sticker.”
Here we go again…
I refuse to be portrayed as the bitchy mom who won’t even let her kid have a sticker, even if that means exposing my child to his primary trigger in a very public venue. What kind of mom would refuse the sticker offering?
Fine lady, you win. “Want a sticker Buddy?”
And then he’s gone, as predicted. Off like a shot, running and screaming like a delusional lunatic with his Spider Man hat pulled down over his eyes as if he was just confronted by a giant sized cat offering him change for a dollar.
Seriously, who is scared of a goddamn sticker?