April 12, 2008

Cute Phobias Banished?

Babies do cute things; that’s a given. But the most innocent behaviors sometimes produce an even higher cute factor. Take, for example, Lady E.’s odd aversion to two seemingly innocuous items: balloons and an air pump. Huh? Balloons have friendly and non-threatening shapes, and feature bright colors and inviting textures that beg them to be swatted around by little hands. So, when we were at a furniture store one day recently and Elena recoiled in horror when the salesperson handed us a balloon, we were mystified. Why? The sound? Just ‘one of those things’?

We tried repeated exposures to reduce her fear of balloons. Each time she would hobble over to us at high speed and cling in fear to either Naomi or myself. Bizarre.

She showed the same odd reaction to…a light blue foot-operated pump for an air mattress. I thought perhaps it was the sound, but she freaks out at the sight or sound of it. It’s very endearing and I am still puzzled as to why this happens.
Elena is otherwise a typical toddler, and she isn’t afraid of the dark and most animals. Perhaps she's a bit shy around new people. (This is fine with us.)
So why was/is she frightened by balloons and air pumps as the bogeyman? I have no idea.
We were at another department store that has a kids’ area with a room, enclosed with mesh netting, that has balloons propelled about by compressed air. It’s a loud and dynamic mini-environment. We decided to take a chance. I went in (OK, I wanted to go in just for myself, I also enjoy the colorful chaos) followed by Naomi, and we enticed our rising daughter into the fray. She slowly got used to it because Naomi and I were having a good time, too. Judging by the short video below, you can see that she started shrieking happily at the balloons and chasing them about the room.

It was fun to watch and just a little gratifying to see our beautiful daughter conquer one small fear.
Now, about that air pump….

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