Saturday 24 January 2009

Leap of faith

Value-adding parenting activity of yesterday - spending 45 minutes trying to get Ads to jump off our 3-feet tall breakfast counter. It's shorter than he is. And he is terrified of jumping from any kind of height, and by that I mean any kind of height. No matter if a loving parent is standing right there waiting to scoop him into their arms.
Our coffee table in the living room must be a foot above the ground. To get down onto the carpet from the table, he bends his knees, puts one foot down on the carpet and then clambers down. Ditto while getting down from the car. I ask him to stand on the dining table chair to fasten his trousers properly and his knees shake in fear. It is all getting beyond ridiculous. I mean, I understand a child can have fears and phobias (which kid doesn't) but when my son perceives hidden dangers in everyday objects and activities, then I am seriously concerned. It doesn't help when S regales us with stories of how he used to climb upto the loft and leap down from there when he was 3 years old; or when my mother tells me how, at the same age, my brother used to drive his tricycle at great speed across the Delhi "Barsati" where we lived and stop just inches away from a percipitous drop to the ground.
I can easily live with my kids being bashful, introverted, average in studies and sports and what not; but I was going berserk at the thought of Ads being fearful and a ripe target for bullies at school and at the playground. Hence the afore-mentioned leisure activity. I propped him on the counter, asked him to please stand up straight and jump into my arms. He cried a little, I cajoled and begged. True to form, he tried distracting me by engaging me in conversation. I know that my son can talk the pants off anybody if he wants to. So I deflected the cute comments and kept asking him to jump. At one point I walked away telling him that he could stay on the counter. He retorted "Shall I sleep here tonight? Can I have a pillow?" At one point, I was trying to establish the concept of "trust" and "faith" so that he would feel less frightened. Too abstract for a 3-year old??
Anyway to cut a long story short, I ended up using my right hand to push him forward to the edge of the counter so that I could "catch" him and show him that there was nothing to fear. And hurray, jump he did, after many many many tries. After a point, he really began to like jumping into my arms (I had made precisely this argument to him) and we ended up doing the climb-jump act like robots till my arms started to ache.
I remember going through a diluted version of this exercise when he was around 20-24 months old, because he was so terrified of going down the slide in the park (he still prefers to climb up the slide rather than slither down!). I anticipate fun and games when he enrolls in swimming classes this summer :(

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