Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Five year old fear

Chloe is afraid of EVERYTHING. Well, not everything - she's not afraid of bugs like I am. :o) But she has a lot of fears that don't make much sense, and really frustrated me and put a damper on our lives.

When I took her to the fair, she was afraid of pretty much every ride. She's terrified of heights, which means she's been rescued from playground equipment several times. The other day we went to Michael's, and we had to walk near the Halloween decorations. She screamed so loud I'm sure the other customers thought I was actually murdering her right there in the store. We had to leave, she was really scared of them. She informed me that day that she doesn't want to go trick-or-treating this year because she doesn't want to see scary decorations. She just wants to stay home on Halloween.

She doesn't sleep in her own bed because she's afraid there are monsters. She's afraid of the dark and won't go in the hallway at night if the light is off. She's afraid of balloons so much that she won't go to parties or into a party store. She's afraid of the swings at the playground, and if someone on our swingset swings her too high she's in tears and won't play again. There are a lot of times she ends up sitting with me instead of playing with other kids because she's afraid of playground equipment - especially the kind at McDonald's. She doesn't complain about not playing, and she enjoys watching the other kids, but she just sits there, and it makes me sad for her.

I've been worried lately about all of these fears. I know that when you're five, it's hard to distinguish real things from pretend things (the Halloween decorations, fear of monsters, etc.) It just seems like she's more afraid than most kids are, of a lot more things. I don't want these fears to stand in her way of really enjoying life.

Last night I was flipping through "Love for a Lifetime" by James Dobson, a book I bought for my sister-in-law. There's a section where he talks about divorce statistics (which really are terrifying) and talks about the effect of divorce on children. One statistic said 90% of children that are the product of a divorce have irrational fears.

Hmm... I wonder if that's a part of it.

He also claimed that after 3 years, most fathers no longer visited their children. It's been almost a month now since Mark has called to talk to or see Chloe. I've been worried about that too - am I supposed to call him? Ask him what the f* he is doing, abandoning her this way? It's not like I want him in her life - I hate the things she learns from him, the influence he has on her. But he is her father, after all, and she knows it and asks often why he doesn't call or come pick her up anymore.

It was my hope that having Andrew in her life would make the divorce easier, somehow. She still has a man in her life, a father-figure, that loves her very much and is a good influence on her. We do things as a family now, whereas when I was married to Mark, we didn't. But even though he's a better father, Andrew won't replace Mark, not in her heart, not in her mind.

I think now that she's a little bit older, she's capable of putting two and two together, she understands a lot more than she did when she was three, and she's thinking her own thoughts on the subject. Unfortunately, she doesn't want to or doesn't know how to share the thoughts with me.

I hate that she's in the middle of this, that she has to deal with having a mom and dad who are divorced. It's not fair to any kid. I think at the time, she handled it so well that I was convinced it wouldn't be that difficult of a transition. But now, two and a half years later, it seems to be catching up with us, and I'm not sure how to approach it all.

Any advice? Should I call Mark and ask him what's going on, or just let him fall away from our lives? Do I coddle her and comfort her when she's afraid of silly things, or should I push her to get over the fears? :::sigh::: Poor kid.


Deb said...

Oh Julie, that's such a tough call, a tough situation. I wish I had some good sound advice for you, but I don't really. I'm encouraged to know that you have been reading Dobson. His books were my "bible" when my children were young. As far as the irrational fear thing... If I were you, I don't think I'd overreact to it. Just say, Okay... and move on. I wouldn't beg her to do what scares her... but instead acknowledge her fear of whatever, like "Boy, I can tell that you're really afraid of that." and then move on. Don't make a big hairy deal out of it, and she will get over it.

I do believe that her bio dad should pull his weight with her. It's just not right for him to abandon her like that, even if he is a bad influence. If he could just see her a few times a week, for an hour or two... take her to get ice cream, take her for a walk, to the park, whatever, he really needs to make time for her, so that she feels a sense of security.

Wow, for someone who didn't have much advice, I sure typed alot, didn't I???? Must be the two pump white chocolate mocha - no whip that I'm drinking... ;-P

Jan said...

Although I love Dobson, I"m not so sure that statistic is accurate without comparing it with how many children with married parents have those fears and how many children with parents who should be divorced yet "stay together for the kids"

I seriously believe that all children have those fears and that you are fortunate that Chloe feels comfortable enough with you that she expresses them.

I feel it is important for you to acknowledge her fears as well as point out that you would never (knowingly) put her in harm's way, nor would other parents. I would tell her that it has to be her decision to participate but that you would like to stay and watch, or look in a window.

I would not eliminate those things from her life and remind her that you will keep her safe.

About Mark...I think the less said the better at this point. Yes, it does lead to behavioral issuses but remember that consistency is one of the biggest gifts to a child. If you ae a good parent, it is important to be a good parent always. If you suck as a parent, it's so heart breaking for a child when the bad parent is bullied into being a good one and it doesn't last.

Yes, she will miss him but sooner or later she'll understand the heartbreak isn't worth it.

Oh I rattle on...hope I've been able to help in some way.


Julie said...

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts. I'm actually not a big fan of Dobson as far as his parenting views, but I do like what he has to say about relationships.

I tried calling Mark today, no answer and no return call. I guess I'm just going to let it go. But he's gonna get an ear full if he starts coming and going in her life every few months thinking it's okay.

Hey, if he's gone a year, i can file to have his parental rights relinquished, and Andrew can adopt her. :-)

Tricia said...

Hi Julie :o)~ I am the mommy of four who have been through divorce first of all on the fear thing... this is going to sound so strange but it worked wonders for us.. we got a can of vanilla air freshener. covered it with white contact paper.. drew a monster on it with a big red circle and line through it.. and it became monster spray.. You spray it twice and you are monster safe. I know its silly, but it worked wonders for us.

As for the dad situation, Definitely keep a journal of every time she asks for him so when he makes some lame brain comment about "Well you could have called you can say we did etc" make sure Chloe knows how lucky she is to have Andrew and you, and if possible maybe try and reserve some time for Andrew to have time with her.. Mary and Chuck go off to 7-11 for slurpees or walmart to window toy shop.. in the end its the time that matters.

big hugs {{{{{{Julie, Chloe, Cora and what the heck Andrew too}}}}}

Katey said...

having BTDT love on her....make her feel loved and safe and DO NOT CALL him....he will make his choices and you can't make him have a relationship with her...meaning calling him is like nagging...I only say this cause I was the one that called and then got mad cause he wouldn't pursue a realationship. He hasn't seen his boys for more than 15 minutes in 6years. They are young men now and it is totally his loss IMO and just my opinion on this BTW