Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Being Scared

Mattias, Mattias. Mattias runs to me with open arms saying "Scared, scared." I picked him up and carry him around on my hip for the bazillionth time that day. "What's scary?" I ask him.

He never answers. Does he really have any idea what scary means? He's 23 months old.

At first, you hear him saying "scared" and it seems impressive. Wow. He's verbalizing so well! He's talking about his feelings! Most kids can't do that until they're three or four or thirty-four. Um. Wait a minute. Most kids can't... Most kids can't...?

As Grandma points out, maybe Mattias knows his trigger word for getting picked up. Hell, maybe he even thinks 'scared' MEANS 'pick me up.'

Still, I try to dissect "scared." When does he say it? Where does he say it? Why does he say it? Maybe I'm desperate to feel that I am not being manipulated by the trigger word. 

I observe this: at grandma and grandpa's house, Noah soaked up every drop of grand-parental attention like a thirsty sponge. Mattias is neither so persistent nor eager. He watches their games for a few minutes, then wanders towards me.

"Scared. Scared."

We arrive home from the airport after 10 days traveling. I set him down in our empty, quiet, CLEAN(!) house. He looks around nervously.

"Scared. Scared!"

I try to come to the conclusion that maybe 'scared' means more than wanting my attention. Maybe it also means he feels insecure based on the situation. Maybe being on the outside of a game, or the inside of an empty house is, in fact, scary. Therefore, maybe scared is more than a trigger word for Mattias. Maybe it is a feeling. Maybe he is emotionally brilliant for his age.

I'm heading down the dark basement stairs with a basketful of laundry. Mattias is standing at the top of the stairs, watching me.

"Scary. Scary!" He holds out his arms.

I blink. Wait a minute. Did he say "scary" or "carry?"  Does he say "scared" or "carried?"

Or maybe it's just a trigger word. Just the same, I pick him up and carry him downstairs on my right hip, laundry basket on the left hip. I make a mental note for one thousand time to find one of those laundry baskets with a hoop handle.

I don't know how the discussion of leopard seals eating penguins started, but it fascinated both the boys for several days.

[photo removed]

Grandma found a youtube video of a leopard seal catching (almost eating!) penguins online, and Noah was so impressed by it that he began quoting lines from the narration. His favorite phrase? The leopard seal "changes the rules of the game" by chasing the penguins on icebergs. There's racing through the water. There's clamping jaws. There's bloody penguins.

He wasn't scared by that video. He was fascinated.

A few days later, Grandma thought that Noah might like Happy Feet. I haven't seen it. "It's not scary," she promised, knowing that Noah has yet to make it through Toy Story. Toy Story is too 'scary' for Noah.

My brother, 31, begged to differ. "Happy Feet is totally scary," he told me. "The penguin basically spends the whole movie trying to fit in, and then he's captured, and he doesn't return home until the last five minutes of the movie."

For the record, Noah agreed with my brother. Happy Feet was scary. He cried through most of it and had nightmares that night.

But the video footage of a real leopard seal eating penguins? Not scary at all.


Pregnantly Plump said...

I hope Mattias means carry. Baby Plum has nightmares sometimes, and does get scared during the reading of certain books -- "There's a Monster at the End of this Book." He didn't say scared, but would nod yes when asked.
As for the Penguin movie, I didn't like it either. I hated the Elvis style way the dad spoke, and didn't like it.

Dan and Amanda Meyer said...

It sounds like "Walking With Penguins" would be more to Noah's taste. I'd recommend it!

twisterfish said...

My youngest watched Happy Feet when he was 5 and was scared -- told me to turn it off, which I did. But then he turned it back on later on his own and watched it and now it's a favorite. He just had to tell himself it was not real and then it was fun.
For what it's worth, I'm thinking he's saying "carry". Maybe teach him the signs for "carry" and "scared" and see what he uses in different situations?

Ann Wyse said...

It's an interesting idea, Twisterfish. I'd kind of come to the conclusion that 'scared' or 'scary' means something in line with "pick me up and hold me close because I feel insecure" So it would be interesting to see if I even could teach him to sign each concept alone.

We haven't seen 'Walking with Penguins', we'll have to see if we can check it out of the library.

I was such a fiction lover as a child, that I find it rather surprising that Noah seems to feel scared by most fiction. But nonfiction, narrated in even toned voice, is clearly okay.