Some people have children that are afraid of everything: roller coasters, strangers, lightning, the dark. They don’t know how lucky they are. Take the fear of getting lost, for example. Few are the parents who have never resorted to the old, “Well, Goodbye Timmy (Janey, Mikey, etc.)–we’re leaving now,” in an effort to hurry up their “doddler.” (Dawdle + toddler = “doddler.”)Usually, the fake leaving routine is enough to send all but the most recalcitrant “doddler” into a screaming panic of leg-clutching compliance; not so with my kids, however. With Clementine I can still remember the look of intense relief that flashed across her face after I finally lost my patience and threatened to abandon her in the library when she was two. It was a look that clearly said, “Well it’s about time–I thought you’d never leave.” With Clyde I would be lucky to get even that; in fact, I’m not completely sure he would even be aware that I had left in the first place. (As the library closed for the night he would probably just get in the first car that looked good to him, perhaps thinking briefly back to that other family of his for a moment, before even that little spark of memory was extinguished in the blaze of his new family’s big screen TV. With Clyde, it’s not that he doesn’t like us; it’s just that he also likes everyone–a lot.)
Then there is the fear of water. While other mothers have commented enviously about my children’s enthusiasm at the swimming pool, they would probably be slightly more appreciative of their own child’s hydrophobic hysterics if they knew how many times I’ve had to dive into a pool fully clothed in order to retrieve a blissfully drowning Clyde from the bottom of the deep end. Or if they knew that every trip to the beach involved plucking him out of the deepening water again, and again, and again, until even the lifeguard suggests that it might be time for us to call it a day.
And, of course, there is the whole scary movie thing. Some parents have professed shock that I can take my kids to such “scary” movies as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. What they don’t realize is that this also means I can no longer play the “no, we can’t go see that; it’ll give you nightmares” card when it comes to getting out of seeing movies that I’m afraid to see. I’m still having nightmares from the last horror movie Clementine dragged me to, which featured not only creatures under the bed, but ones in the closet as well. (She pronounced it “Ok, but a little boring.” Meanwhile, six months later I’m still jumping into bed from four feet away and pulling my coat out of the closet by the very tip of its sleeve.)
Then there’s all the other little fears my children lack, fears which could logically also be classified as survival mechanisms. Fear of cars? Nonexistent. Fear of 400-ton locomotives rushing past at the train station? Nada. Fear of slipping off the edge of the Grand Canyon and falling 500 feet straight down? Zip. (Although it does seem that in this my children are somewhat in sync with nearly every other tourist who visits the Canyon–especially the European ones.)
Maybe that’s the key. Maybe it’s not so much that they are fearless, but rather that they are simply more European than us. That certainly would explain why Clementine is always so eager to see the back of us, as well as why she has steadfastly refused to join us in two family favorites: pork rinds and grits. Of course, it doesn’t much help when it comes to explaining Clyde’s drowning thing–or Clementine’s love of zombie movies. Or does it? Who knows: maybe it’s a British thing.