While we were expecting, one of my friends gave me this piece of advice: "It isn’t crazy if it works." I think it is the best advice anyone ever gave me regarding parenthood. I have applied this philosophy to everything: from tricks to getting the kids to eat to dealing with my son’s strange fears. When it comes to my two and half year old son Carl, I do mean strange; he has taken the term “Scaredy Cat” to a whole new level.
I used to say Carl was afraid of everything, but this has turned out not to be true. He’s not afraid of some things that I would consider fairly reasonable to be afraid of. For example, he is not afraid of heights (my personal phobia) or spiders. He is, however, currently afraid of dead leaves and dandelion seeds.
Here in Australia it is autumn, so being afraid of dead leaves pretty much amounts to the same thing as agoraphobia. In order to not go completely insane, I like to take my twins for walks to get them out of the house, as long as it’s not raining. Sadly, even opening the garage doors reveals enough leaves to send Carl into meltdown. Holding Carl's hand seems to help a little bit (he still watches the leaves like a hawk and walks as far away from them as he can), but as soon as the wind moves a leaf, he is clinging to me like I am a rescue helicopter and he’s being chased by sharks.
I have tried talking to him about the fact that dead leaves pose no danger in any way, but if he understands, he gives no indication that he believes me. Then I started getting a little more creative and tried "fighting" the dead leaves by stomping on them while holding his hand. His twin brother Nolan loves this and runs around stomping all the leaves Carl is going to have to go past either out of love for his brother or love of stomping. Again, it wasn't a success, except if you count creating fun for Nolan or entertainment for the neighbours.
Then on Monday I found the answer.
Recently Carl has found enjoyment by telling people they are naughty: "Naughty Nolan" or "Naughty Daddy" with full waggling finger action. I don't know what made it click in my mind, but suddenly I was standing in the middle of my street waggling my finger at a pile of leaves and saying: "Naughty Dead Leaves". Carl joined in, laughing, waggling his finger and saying "Naughty Dead Leaves." The rest of our walk was filled with laughter instead of screaming.
It isn't crazy if it works.