Passing on our fears

Whilst doing some research recently into the alarmingly large wasp population I keep noticing, I came across a brilliant little ‘ten things’ piece. It was ‘ten things you can only understand if you are scared of wasps’. They were pretty standard – you love winter because the wasps are gone, you fear any buzzing noise, etc. But one stood out. Firstly, because it made me laugh and, secondly, because it was a teeny bit true. It was this – you will sacrifice your mum/dad/child to get away from a wasp and avoid being stung.

Funny but not far from reality.

My sister-in-law and I took the kids to a local stately home/beauty spot this week to have a picnic and lots of running around fun with ice cream and an enormous park. It was a fabulous way to spend a sunny day. Except we didn’t get to spend the day there. We were invaded by hundreds of wasps. They were all over us, all over our food, and even on the kids’ faces. I did my best to appear brave and not at all scared, but inside I was in bits. And then my daughter was stung. And I’m ashamed to say I looked to my (much braver than me) sister-in-law to save us. And she did, thankfully.

But reading that article later, although I chuckled, I could completely relate to the wasp fear and understand the feelings that come with a phobia like this. I don’t describe myself as phobic but if I truly think about my feelings towards the winged, buzzing creatures, I probably am. I can do spiders, flies, ants at a push, but show me a wasp and I’m a total custard. I freeze, my heart races, and I instantly believe I’m about to encounter certain doom. Bees, I’m a little better with, as I know it’s pretty desperate if they sting me as they come off much worse.

I find phobias fascinating and I have been thinking a lot about how they manifest themselves, how you present them to your children, and how you can avoid passing them on.

Since my eldest was born, I have been acutely aware that my fears can easily transfer to her if I project them onto her. And for the most part I have hidden the fear of wasps. If there was one around I would tell her they had come to have a sniff of her and say Hi. And she was fine with them. But then she was stung a few weeks ago and, despite my husband and I being upbeat about it, it made her wary of them. The second stinging really upset her and I realised that she has developed the fear as I have.

Did I do that? Did she pick up on my feelings that I probably didn’t hide that well? Or did the experience of being stung twice in a few weeks make her become naturally frightened of them anyway? And, therefore, did my fear have no bearing?

I wonder a lot about how we develop our fears in the first place. Are they brought about by an incident or do we learn them? Or both? I think perhaps it is a blend. Even in the early days when my husband and I used to welcome wasps and say hello, I could never stop others around my daughter, for example at her nursery, go into full panic mode when they saw one. So maybe as her mini society around her we all contributed.

Considering that she now has this fear, is it a bad thing or is it going to give her some natural caution against the wasps? Personally I don’t want her to fear anything but I know that is an unrealistic expectation to have. Children have to experience fear in order to be able to learn, in a safe environment, how to overcome it, And I know that whilst my instinct is to wrap my kids up in bubble wrap, I can’t and shouldn’t do that. They have to experience the bad things in life as well as the good in order to prepare them for their futures. And hopefully make them resilient adults who can learn to manage the things that sometimes frighten them.

For now, I think I will keep trying to hide the wasp fear but secretly yearn for the colder months when my winged foes depart our gardens and parks.

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