The other day I was reading about the developmental milestones typical of a ten-month-old baby, and one of the things that babies of this age feel is a heightened sense of fear, which is the consequence of increased awareness. The world is becoming an intriguing place that is full of hazardous excitement – such as sirens, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, blenders and hooters. Loud, brash noises are likely to scare a baby, who will interpret harsh sounds as threatening. The article I was reading advised parents not to minimise a baby’s fear – even if the fear seems irrational, it is very real to a baby.
My ten-month-old baby girl is a born and bred Londoner – sirens and hooters elicit a comforting sense of home and engines are soothing. She adores our vacuum cleaner and her little arms flap up and down in joyous anticipation when I open up the storage cupboard to remove our dirt-sucker. She trails after me as I clean the carpet, inspecting the vacuum cleaner, leaning on it and using it as a sort of jungle-gym. Vacuum is Amelia’s friend. Hair dryers and blenders… please – my daughter eats them for breakfast.
Okay, so Amelia is one hardcore little baby. Well… not quite. She may be master of ‘the loud, obnoxious noise’ but autumn leaves and white pebbles leave her quivering in her little pink tights. This is no joke. And funnily enough it’s not one leaf or pebble, or even a group of them, it’s pebbles and leaves en masse that my little precious is afraid of. It really is hard not to make fun of her irrational fear. I simply love the fact that a blaring siren and a vibrating vacuum do not provoke any sense of danger but white pebbles… and leaves for heaven’s sake? Is it the colour? Is it the texture? Perhaps it is the overwhelming number or quantity that she fears. What would happen if the white pebbles and autumn leaves mixed and assaulted Amelia’s vision in unison? I shudder to think.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Jack Sparrow is gets trapped in Davy Jones’ locker, which turns out to be a Dali-esque dreamscape populated by masses and masses of white rocks that turn into crabs. I know that my daughter will have to be at least twenty before she watches ‘Pirates 3′ – if she is afraid of white pebbles, white rocks are the Freddy Krueger of Amelia’s imagination. And Freddy never dies.
Although I secretly laugh at my darling child’s paranoia – I am her mommy; a soft place to fall where cuddles and kisses are endless… and white pebbles and autumn leaves are no match for a mother’s love.