Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Not Torture, an Educated Parenting Decision

Monday night I wrote this post. And then I had this twitter conversation.

After that, I proceeded to spend hours lying in bed, not sleeping, second guessing my decision to take Alice to the butterfly conservatory. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was, in fact, torturing Alice.

Don't worry, even in my sleep deprived state I returned to my senses. I was making an educated parenting decision to follow through with my butterfly conservatory plan. I appreciated the opinions of well-meaning friends, but in this instance I had to go against them.

Let me be clear, when I tell my stories of life and parenting Alice, I do so with a humorous slant. The meat of the stories are true, but I find life easier to handle with a sense of humor. The humor, to some, may have been lost on my most recent post. Please know in everything I do, I absolultely have Alice's best interest at heart.

Case in point, the hours I spent lying awake contemplating why I was taking Alice into a situation I knew full well could have a bad outcome. It's very simple. Alice doesn't just fear butterflies, she fears all insects. This affects her daily life. It's debilitating. In case you hadn't noticed, bugs are everywhere. In the ballet room, in gymnastics, in her house, on the porch, in her playhouse, et cetera, et cetera. If I allowed Alice to succumb to the fear then I would be enabling her. Instead, Hatta and I (and the extended family) take the approach that insects are a part of our life and certainly nothing to be frightened about. And see, the thing is, Alice doesn't enjoy being afraid of bugs. It gets in her way of playing, she's wise enough to realize that. She wants to overcome her phobia. She wants to believe us when we tell her that the majority of the bugs are not looking to harm her. So, I provide Alice with opportunities to test out her insect threshold. In the garden, she's by my side, curious about the worms and the roly polies. Not interested in touching them, she keeps her distance to test the theory.

I saw the butterfly conservatory as merely another step towards Alice's freedom. It was a controlled environment with beautiful, fascinating insects that do not bite. My job was to support Alice and reassure her she would not be harmed. The only way for the experience to be a success was to go. To stay home would be giving into the fear. That was something I was not okay with. I do not think living your life around fear is healthy.

I asked Alice, the morning of the adventure, if she wanted to go.

"Yes. But I might be afraid if they want to land on my head," she replied.

"Well, that's okay. I won't let them land on you."

"Even if they don't, I still might be a little bit scared," she told me.

She wanted to face her fear. And, my friends, it paid off. We entered the greenhouse with her in my arms and we just stood there. I allowed her a few moments to take it all in before we moved. She was hesitant when I knelt down to observe a nearby butterfly and to place her on the ground. But, just like that, her curiosity took over. She didn't want to be unhappy. She trusted me to keep her safe and that allowed her the freedom to check her fear at the door...well, mostly. There was one instance when a butterfly attempted to land on her head and sent her into freak out mode. I quickly handled the situation and she didn't let it ruin her experience.

All in all, the butterfly effect was a success. She's still afraid of bugs...this morning she wouldn't sit still on our front steps for first day of preschool pictures because bugs were flying about. But, I believe each positive insect experience helps her to be one step closer to overcoming her phobia for good.


  1. I'm so glad Alice enjoyed the butterfly conservatory. And I'm proud of both of you for facing her fears head on and in such a controlled way that she had a positive experience and is on the right path to overcoming her fear.

    I've come to accept the fact that I'll never overcome my fear of fish. If my kids ever win one of those creepy-ass goldfish from a fair, the carnies will be gaining extra workers- no way in hell those things are ever coming in my house! If Alice ever decides to trade in her fear of bugs for ichthyophobia, she's got a friend in me!

  2. You did good mama. You are the only one qualified to make decisions about Alice. find a way to ignore the judgment of others...

  3. I'm glad to hear the Plan came together so Beautifully! You're a good Mom and this was well thought out and executed. My G-Kids are trying to get me over my fear of heights {Vertigo actually}... if anyone can inspire me to face a fear and attempt to conquer it I'm sure they can... but I'm still a work in progress... I'm enjoying your Archived Posts. Dawn... The Bohemian