Dealing with childhood fears: The Birds


Du Maurier excerptI’m pretty sure Son #1 (age: 3) is channelling Alfred Hitchcock. Or Daphne du Maurier. Possibly both.

One of the earliest signs that Son #1 was developing ornithophobia (yep, it’s a fear, it has a name) was at around 18 months of age when he would refuse to go out the back door if there was a crow sitting on the fence. We immediately started our own form of cognitive behavioural therapy: we would carry him outside and parody the crows’ cries while tickling him. This made him laugh, for a while.

Personally, I don’t understand the whole scary crow thing. My husband has tried to illustrate it by regaling me with creepy stories of wheat harvesting in his childhood. A hot paddock full of ripe stalks, rippling in a slight breeze, not another soul as far as the eye can see, when through the shimmering silence, a lonely sound echoes… “Caw… caw, caw….” And there, sitting on a distant fence post… those beady eyes… watching… Meh.

Son #1 is not terribly picky in his paranoia. He’ll as soon cringe from a cockatoo as from a sparrow, though he is fond of rosellas (from a safe distance, through thick glass, and with his fingers in his ears in case they make a noise).

Scary bird

Recently it’s become a real issue around bedtime:

Me (brightly): Bed time!
Son #1 (predictably): No! I don’t want to go to bed!
Me: Why not?
Son #1 (puppy dog eyes): I a bit scared.
Me (feigning ignorance): Of what?
Son #1: THE BIRDS…

Later on in bed, after teeth, story and cuddles….

Son #1: I need come sleep in your bed.
Me: But your bed is so comfy!
Son #1: But the birds will get me.
Me: No, the birds are asleep! They’ve all gone to bed, they’re very tired, just like you!
Son #1: They will come in my bedroom.
Me: No they won’t, we have windows, walls and a roof, remember? We’ve talked about this [only every night for the past six months or so].

The next night….

Son #1: I a bit scared.
Me: What are you scared of?
Son #1 (clutching teddy, looking a little haunted): The birds will peck, peck, peck out my eyes… And eat them…

Ok, those midnight nightmares are starting to make a little more sense. The following day I called a pow wow with the the king of the scary birds and gave him a serious talking-to (at least, that’s what I told Son #1).

Feeling quite proud of my preschooler fear management skills, I approached bedtime that night with renewed optimism…

Son #1: I a bit scared.
Me: The birds won’t get you, sweetheart. Remember, I spoke to them and they’re really very friendly and they won’t hurt you and they have gone far, far away for the night. And even if they do come back, we have walls and a roof and a window and they’re all asleep anyway. [I’m tired, I’ll say anything].
Son #1 (quiet and solemn): They will dig, dig, dig, outside my window and go under the ground and come up through my floor and they will get me.

And with that, he flops his head down on the pillow, turns away from me and stares at the wall, resigned to his fate.

Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out. Your birds aren’t a patch on my son’s birds. Scared? You should be (I sure am!)

seeinglightersideRebecca Bowyer is a regular blogger with Mornington Peninsula Kids. You can read more of her blogs at Seeing the Lighter Side of Parenting and follow her on Facebook or Twitter


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