Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bizarre Comfort Objects, Wacky Phobias

Don't you love the way every child has a marvelously unique personality? I love to think back on Ethan's and Allyson's toddler days, when we enjoyed hours of entertainment just watching their little personalities unfold. Here are some funny quirks that are now just fond memories....

Excerpt From Allyson's Journal, Sunday 7/15/07 (age 13 months)
Many babies get attached to a comfort object: a favorite blankie, a pacifier, a monkey. You, however, don't seem to form any long-term attachments. Instead, you become infatuated with various random objects.

Ally With Green Puppy and Baby

Although you do enjoy hugging your Baby (the blue Sleepy Time bear) and the green puppy that a kid from our home group gave you, you get the most intense pleasure from carrying around less conventional comfort objects: fingernail polish bottles, hand lotion, a can of Eagle Brand condensed milk at the grocery store, your tiny toothbrush, Mommy's hairbrush, suntan lotion, tiny hair clips, water bottles (full or empty, which you pretend to drink), and dental floss, to name a few.

I think the reason these objects are so highly prized is that you labor so much to obtain them. You reach high overhead to fish things out of the vanity drawers in our bathroom. You pull open the bottom cabinets, straining against the safety locks, and wedge your little arm through the crack. You grunt and whine, rummaging blindly, and you persist until you pull out whatever object you happen to grab hold of. Once you have worked the object free, you brandish it triumphantly over your head, and then you carry it gleefully around the house.

You guard these prizes fiercely, and as long as they aren't harmful, we don't have the heart to take them away after you have worked so hard to obtain them. So we let you carry these bizarre comfort objects all around until you finally forget about them and abandon them in odd places.

The very best objects, though, are the forbidden ones. You are always on the lookout to snatch car keys, cell phones, and TV remotes. You are very adept at pushing buttons. Once, you were randomly calling someone on my cell phone, and I wasn't ready to battle you for possession. So I held down the End button until the phone turned off. Now, I thought, you could do less damage. You were too smart, though. Immediately, you pressed and held the same button until you heard the welcome tones as the phone sprang back to life. So I had to pry it loose from your clenched fingers. Boy, were you mad!

We've tried to give you toy versions of these treasures, but you are too clever to fall for imitations. No matter what fancy lights or sounds come with a toy cell phone or keys, you still prefer the ones we are using.

Oh well. Sometimes it can be inconvenient, but mainly it's pretty cute!

Eighteen Months Later
Allyson still hasn't adopted a comfort object. She loves many of her dolls and stuffed animals, but she never has chosen a favorite. She is still fascinated by bizarre objects--her latest infatuation is with kitchen gadgets like the garlic press and the silicone basting brush. I think she's going to be like her mother!

Ethan's Quirks
As a toddler, Ethan was attached to his Barney stuffed animal, which was not surprising since he was crazy about that mildly annoying show featuring the giant purple dinosaur. What I recall when I look back on Ethan's toddler days is his wide array of peculiar phobias.

Ethan, Age 1

He was afraid of:
  • The vacuum cleaner - Much too noisy
  • The ironing board - Made a scary screeching noise (because it was literally as old as I was)
  • All costumed characters - Especially the "rat" at Chuck E. Cheese. He loved going there, but he spent much of his time huddled behind my legs.
  • Balloons - He was terrified of the loud noise when he heard them pop. He couldn't be anywhere near a balloon without going into hysterics.
  • Tree bark - Much too rough
  • Grass - ???
The funniest and most inconvenient phobia was the fear of grass. He had to be carried across the grass until he was well past two. If we tried to set him down on the grass, he would scream and tighten his grip like a boa constrictor. Even during an Easter egg hunt with all his cousins, Ethan would not retrieve his own eggs. He'd get so excited when he spotted an egg, but he would cry out in terror when we held him near the ground to reach it. The whole family laughed until we cried.

Ethan, Aunt Emily, Cousin Hillary

Emily babysat Ethan for a few months, around the time he turned one. Uncle Chris cured him of a couple phobias during that time. He held an ironing board and folded and unfolded it rapidly. If there was any screeching noise from their ironing board, Ethan couldn't have known because he was screaming too loudly to hear it. Throughout this therapy session, Chris laughed uproariously, and Ethan gradually stopped his crying and eventually couldn't keep from laughing along with him. I wasn't sure how I felt about this story until I realized that Ethan really was cured. In fact, every time I unfolded the ironing board after that, Ethan would laugh.

Chris also chased Ethan and little Hillary around with the vacuum cleaner. Both of them would howl piteously and climb up on the furniture. I'm not sure the conditioning was so effective with the vacuum cleaner; at age 11, Ethan is still a little uneasy when we vacuum (because Bill tries to run over his feet).

Ten Years Later Ethan finally outgrew all of his strange phobias, with the possible exception of the vacuum cleaner. His newest worry is sickness, especially stomach viruses. He is terrified of germs, and he's developed some unusual strategies for keeping well--which seem pretty effective since he never seems to get sick.


Mindy said...

That's too funny that Allyson loves literally everything she can get her hands on! I stuck to my pink blankie for a very very long time, I couldn't live without that blanket. Especially if my mom and dad would try to drop me off somewhere for the night but forgot my blanket.

Ethan is so cute in that picture with his barney! He looks the same just younger. Emily looks so young in that picture of her holding Ethan and Hillary! Oh how I remember all of Ethan's phobias. I remember that Easter egg hunt in La Grange that he completely freaked out if anybody tried to put him in the grass. And how could I forgot every time we went to Chuck E Cheese for birthdays and he was always terrified of the rat costume. I also remember Mitchell and my dad terrorizing him with balloons at Emily and Chris' old old house. That's interesting that Ethan's carried his vacuum phobia with him to this day.

Mindy said...

I'm still not sure where to comment on your comments from my blog but I assume you'll see this faster on your blog than mine. Of course you can post the recipes! I just take them from Food Network or other places :-)

I really hope I'll have the discipline to work out at home. I bought two different DVDs so I'm hoping to just switch them out every day, that way I work different muscles, and throw in some jogging a few days of the week. I'm really getting depressed about my weight, I know I'm not huge but I'm not where I should be, where I've been my whole life. And I hate it so I need to make some changes. Blake and I have been looking at gym memberships around here but since we aren't legally a "couple" (which don't get me started on), we would each have to pay the way too expensive "single" price which is too much to be paying to work out when I can just go run around the block.

Sarah said...

Oh, I remember that pink blankie! But I had forgotten about the balloon terrorism. Hilarious!

Melissa Irwin said...

It IS amazing how unique each child is...and sometimes so opposite from their siblings. I love how you have journaled these memories. Your children will cherish glimpses of themselves, and the obvious adoration of their momma.

Kristina said...

This was hysterical to read! I have a feeling Gabriel is going to be fascinated with obscure objects as well. He's already showing a preference for my hair clips, brushes, and nail clippers. (I hope this doesn't mean a profession as a stylist is in his future...I want him to be a football player or a lawyer. You know, something that will pay off for me when I'm retired!! :) )
Thanks for sharing these stories. I can't believe your son was afraid of grass! That's a new one!


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