My daughter is deathly afraid of sharks. The “I won’t touch a single toe to the water as the waves roll in because a shark might bite it off” kind of fear. I cannot remember when it started or why- probably from a movie or show that she shouldn’t have been watching yet but we didn’t realize it until it was too late.
I tried to ease her fears with an article I read with my students just this past week. The main idea was that shark attacks are rare mistakes/ they don’t want to hurt humans. She listened intently but still, not a single toe in the ocean.
We went to the library to get some books and we walk into a display all about sharks with a book in the center that featured a particularly large photograph of a great white shark’s mouth- teeth and all.
“I want that one” she states matter of factly. “You sure? You don’t like sharks” I replied with hesitation.
“I want to learn about them so I’m not scared anymore.”
“Well okay- that’s very brave and mature of you. I hope this helps.”
We bring the book up to the counter to check it out. The librarian made a comment about how scary the book looked and she repeated her reasoning. “That’s very smart of you! We should all learn more about what we fear.” I nodded and chuckled thinking about how grownups should heed the advice of 5 year olds more often. Grownups can be so silly sometimes.
We returned to the condo and read cover to cover about sharks. She picked out certain facts that she repeated to every family member available. She picked out some that she “needed to tell her teacher about when break is over”.
It seemed that the plan has worked- now more fascination than fear.
That was until bedtime. She said to me as I kissed her goodnight, “what if I dream about orcas?”
Of course our fear has now shifted to orcas because apparently, they sometimes eat sharks.
Maybe next time ocean- maybe you will get a toe dipped into you next time.