Friday, January 04, 2008

Childhood phobias

Boy, when I happed across this (#10. Novelty Drinking-Themed Toys), the ole goosebumps just flashed.

My grandparents had one of these, and I was scared to death of it. It's the first thing I remember being terrified of. Besides its face going red and smoke coming out of its ears, it would make this horrible grinding whistle when the smoke shot out. The memory is still vivid. (I still don't recall why this thing freaked me out.)

So, that got me thinking about first phobias and what caused them.

My wife's was German Shepherds because before she could talk (talk about a good memory, eh?), a German Shepherd found her diapers set out for the laundry service, tore into the bag and scattered them everywhere. My wife remembers feeling so violated. Later, they ran across another German Shepherd in the park, and she freaked. Her mom, one of the more clueless people I've ever met, couldn't figure it out, so her brother who was a mere one year older than her said, "[sister] don't like no bowwow." I find it interesting that my wife knows WHY she has the phobia. (In an odd coincidence, I was attacked by a German Shepherd when my wife was standing next to me. The thing went right for my throat, but I'm such a spazz (and I prefer the term "strong flight response") I managed to shield myself and knock the dog away in the same motion. I spend a year getting past being nervous around big dogs.)

My eldest daughter was afraid of blow-up toys until she entered grade school. It's my fault, too. We had this life-size blowup Frankenstein. It was more cartoonish than scary, and I had learned that kids aren't afraid of a lot of things until you teach them to be. When I first started blowing it up, she was having a ball crawling around and tugging on it. But as it began to take on the proportions of a person lying there, she got quieter and quieter, finally slinking over to the wall with her eyes glued on the thing. Then I stood it up. Dear Lord. She practically levitated with fear and screamed so loud it made me jump, which made the blowup Frankie jump, which made her convulse and scream louder. I couldn't get it out of the room fast enough. We ended up storing it in the basement until Halloween. Both my wife and I got startled by it even though we knew it was there. When we absent-mindedly went down for something, and flicked on a light and THERE IT WAS, it always made us jump. Our poor baby would cling to us like an abused rhesus monkey who was raised by a washcloth if we carried her anywhere near the stairs. Later that year I bought her a huge blowup jack (the six-pronged things you plays jacks with using a ball), because she was pulling herself up and I thought it'd be perfect for her to us for that, plus she could push it around and practice walking. Of course, she wouldn't go NEAR the thing. So, I am responsible for my first daughter's first phobia.

Lucky for me, my wife was responsible for our second child's first phobia. They had gotten stickers at the doctors after an appt., and for some reason my wife stuck them to her arm (or allowed her to do so). Well, the glue in these stickers was a Gorrila Glue reject, and even after we pried the stickers off (a couple days later) the stickum remained. After about a week, we decided it was time to clean it off, and I discovered the miraculous face wash for Nordic-descent folks like myself, Cetaphil, dissolved the glue. But since then the poor little thing will not let us put play tattoos on her, and she barely tolerates Band-Aids.

Alas, though, as I produced her second phobia. We were at the zoo, and she was trying to go to sleep in her stroller. She was still fussing, so I knew she was awake. A beautiful peacock walked in front of us, so I raised the blanket to show it to her, and this alarmed the peacock, so he lowered his head and squawked so loud had we been holding wine glasses they would've exploded. The only thing louder was our baby's scream in response. She can't even stand them on TV now.

Any good phobia stories from my gentle readers?


The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

I was traumatized in Kindergarten by the filmstrip version of Robert McCloskey's "Homer Price"--you know, the story where the donut machine won't stop, and donuts KEEP COMING OUT. There are piles and piles of donuts everywhere, and NOBODY CAN STOP IT, and clearly soon the whole world will be buried in donuts and WE WILL ALL BE BURIED ALIVE AND DIE. I cried and cried, and on the last day of Kindergarten Mrs. Fendel asked what filmstrip everyone would like to see, and everyone called out for Homer Price, and I ran shrieking from the room.

It gives me the willies just to type it. When Offspring #1 was reading the book thirty years later, I couldn't even be in the same room.

yahmdallah said...

That's funny.

As a kid, I was cast as the voice of the character in a film about littering. At first, I was thrilled and flattered, but when we actually watched the film in class it became obvious why I was cast – you couldn’t tell by my voice if I was a boy or a girl. All the kids in my class laughed really hard. It was a total Charlie Brown experience.