Last night Jack had his bath. The end of the bath is always a bit of a battle when it comes to washing his hair. Jack hates having his hair washed because it involves pouring water over his head. Jack hates having water on his face. He always has, any amount for any amount of time makes him very nervous and eventually leads to anger. So for the last couple years Jack's baths have always ended the same way, we wash his hair while he shouts and cries before eventually he demands to get out of the bath. Up until that point bath time is a blast.
Helen and I tried all sorts of things to help ease the process. We tried having him lie down, which just lead to him having a panic attack as soon as he started leaning back. We tried using the shower head. We bought a special pouring bucket designed specially not to get water or soap in the child's eyes. I've even tried making it more fun by dangling him by his ankles and dipping the top of his head in the water but he changed his mind on that one pretty quickly. We settled on having him hold a cloth over his face, it seemed to work the best, but he still wasn't happy about it.
Two weeks ago Jack decided that he didn't want the cloth anymore, he just sat there tight eyed until it was over. We obviously expressed how proud we were that he was braving the water and since then washing his hair has been much easier. Yesterday when that time came around he said I'm a big brave boy, I'll do it myself. Not entirely sure what he meant we carried on filling the bucket as normal. Jack promptly grabbed the bucket out of Helen's hands and poured it over his head. He clearly wasn't happy about it, but he endured, even enough to fill it up and do it again. See I'm a brave boy. Helen and I were quite stunned, we shampooed his hair and then he poured the water over his face again and again. Each time he scrunched his eyes closed as tight as they would go and grumbled, but each time he came out on the other side calm and almost boastful.
Later in the evening Helen and I talked about the change that we'd realized we'd noticed in Jack over the last couple of weeks. He hadn't been asking for the light to be turned up after bed time, movies didn't seem to scare him anymore, he wasn't jumping through the ceiling every time someone activated a hand dryer in a bathroom. While vacuuming the house a few days ago Jack, rather than covering his ears and hiding under a blanket as he normally would, he followed me around the house, he even helped.
He's mentioned the 'Big Brave Boy' status a number of times recently, always whenever he's about to do something that he wouldn't normally do. Thinking back over the last couple weeks Jack, it seems, has been on a mission to face his fears.
Last week Jack spent the day with his nanny at a wacky warehouse. When Helen picked him up Jack proudly announced I went on the biiig slide, and it went all the way down and I wasn't scared because I'm a big brave boy. Over the previous week there had been two separate occasions where Jack has been too scared to go down the biggest tube-slides because they were too dark inside. His nanny reported that he apparently just went for it, all on his own.
Outside of the realm of monsters there are a few things that really scare Jack; loud noises, darkness, water on his face. He, like most kids his age, is pretty easily frightened, I only have to insist that I'm a monster beyond an initial declaration and he starts to get uneasy. Lately even the games have been a little different, my being a monster doesn't seem to bother him so much anymore, no matter how convincing my performance may be. In fact when we we get on the subject of monsters, my being one or not, it usually ends with Jack threatening to punch or kick them in the face.
I don't know what's brought this on, I'm loathed to think it might related to a favored Ben10 episode about Ben facing his fear of clowns but I can't think of any other explanation. As a parent you try to teach what lessons you can but circumstances set the curriculum. Jack's fears have never been anything that couldn't be resolved by a nightlight. When it comes to Jack's fears I do what all other parents do and start talking about being brave. I remember hating that word when I was a kid, I found it very patronizing and had generally associated it with imminent suffering.
I don't remember how old I was when I started actively facing my fears, probably closer to thirteen than three, and while I just did it so I would look like a wimp to my friends Jack is apparently doing it for himself. I have to say, I'm genuinely impressed.