Swashbuckling dragonslayers

E and I went tree climbing this weekend. She’s really into it. She’s also not great at it, being quite little, so likes to have her hands held while she finds where to step. But I’m pleased she likes climbing, though her father is less keen. He follows her up the stairs. This isn’t at all surprising, bearing in mind he has a 7inch scar down his arm where doctors inserted 10 pins following his head first fall down the stairs. But he also worries about how she walks across our bed in case she falls off and holds out his hands for her to grasp instead of seeing how she does alone.

I find myself often telling her to be careful and then get cross with myself. She should be exploring and finding out what she can do.

For me there are a number of considerations. The first thing is that for whatever reason, I worry about harm coming to E. I always have, and I mean worrying beyond what’s normal. If E stands by a lake, I worry about her falling in, if she is by a road I worry about a car mounting the pavement and running her down. The first three months of her life I had a nightmare each night about her suffocating in our duvet by co-sleeping (which we didn’t do, she slept in a moses basket) My counsellor said I have a heightened sense of loss, which if I believe it, I can put down as an explanation for this. So for me, telling her to be careful is also telling my mind to stop panicking. I’m pretty certain I’d be like this if she was a boy.

I remember in my GCSE drama class we did a lesson on fear. We all had to envision scenarios that scared us and immersed ourselves in the feeling. At some point in the class, we were lying quietly on the floor when the drama teacher announced an axe murderer was coming through the dressing rooms to hack us to death. What should we do? The vast majority of us ran around for a bit and then hid. Only one person stood by the door with a chair ready to hit him over the head. Once this was pointed the rest of us felt pretty silly, yet there was a whole class full of girls and we all did the same thing. Group mentality? Yes to an extent, but perhaps this is also something to do with conditioning.

When we’ve been travelling in the car somewhere E often comes up with imaginative scenarios where we are being chased by monsters or dinosaurs or crocodiles. I’m not sure where this has come from but it’s fine, except that her reaction is then to drive faster to escape or to hide. This bothers me and so I’ve started to suggest to her that she talk sternly to the monster and tell it off or go away, or that she fight and defend herself. Both of these have gone down well, I’m pleased to say, including a drawn out response yesterday where she bought an imaginary sword from an imaginary shop in order to fight.

This has all been speculation and wonder on my part but today I came across this article and was really glad to read it and find that it echoed some of my concerns. It’s not cute to be scared, or passive, or incapable of looking after yourself. So I will tell E to get her sword out again, but in the meantime I’d be interested to hear how others have dealt with this.

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