Lara has never been a very brave child. Born of good overly cautious, type-A, and - dare I say - anal-retentive stock, she is similarly endowed with a healthy sense of danger and a precocious survival instinct. Honestly, this is probably to the good. I read somewhere that problems between children and parents are rarely caused by the specific personalities each has, but more by the mismatch of these personalities. There is no mismatch here. I understand her deeply when she screeches at an approaching squirrel, or at a pigeon showing an unhealthy level of curiosity in her person. I know how she feels. I've been there. Family lore holds the story of my terror of butterflies. For about twenty years of my life I lived with a deep, uncontrollable phobia of dogs (by the way, all the people in the park insisting to the person about to sob that your dog happens to be friendly? yeah, that doesn't help.)
So when Lara suddenly, almost overnight, developed a seemingly abiding fear of water - for a while, it was so bad that she would start to whimper at drawings of people getting wet - all I could do was feel a strong and helpless empathy. What can you do when your baby screams every night when you start to undress her because she knows you're about to bathe her? The suggestions people offered were so ludicrous ("maybe some toys in the bath?") that eventually we stopped talking about it with others. Then Lara started being scared of other kids. I've mentioned it jokingly on the blog before, but in reality it seemed pretty serious - especially seeing her day after day at the playground, crying if any child came too close or sometimes even just looked in her direction. I read somewhere that this is actually a common fear for toddlers, but I haven't seen any other kids doing it. Maybe their parents don't take them out. The worst of this fear was the day we went to a playgroup and Lara clung to me like a koala bear, pulling my arms around her, hysterical if I slightly loosened them. She did this for two straight hours.
Suddenly, though, it started to get better. "I'm sure it's a phase," ended most of the advice we heard, and I can't believe they were actually right. I've already written about Lara's muscling of the other playground kids, and today I wanted to show you these grainy, crappy cell phone pictures of her getting soaked in the fountain next to the farmer's market.
You can't really tell from the image, but she is standing in about an inch of water in permeable shoes and the entire front half of her body is sopping wet. She was splashing herself with wet leaves for about a half an hour.
After that she cozied up to a couple sitting on the cement slabs nearby and made instant best friends out of them by telling them about the "fauten" and the "maket" where we had just been. They gave her a sourdough roll and she smiled and pointed out all the features of her face. She was either an adorable preview of their future (they were pretty clearly not married) or else the best birth control money can buy. And me? I was just doing a happy dance in my heart.