Fear and the Unknown

When we moved into the house where we now live, we bought a washer and dryer set on craigslist for $75. They both work, but they’re old and rusty and really loud.

The other morning, I had a load of laundry started, and Jack and I went upstairs to explore his dad’s office while Brian was taking a nap. We fiddled and poked around for a while, and as we started coming back down the stairs, the washer shifted in its cycle to something more cacophonous than its previous setting. Jack clutched at my leg and whimpered. It took me a minute to realize what was bothering him, and when I figured out it was the washer, I patted his shoulder and said, “It’s OK, boo. It’s just the washer running.” He didn’t budge.

Because frankly, he didn’t give a shit. He didn’t care what was making that godawful racket. He just didn’t like it. I had made an interesting error. I had assumed that he was afraid of the unknown, that once I reassured him and told him what it was, he would calm right down and blithely plop down the stairs. Shows what I know.

At the time, I was impatient with him and his fear. I sighed, picked him up, carried him down the stairs. I may have even called him silly. He clung to me until we reached the bottom of the stairs, and I shut the door to the garage to muffle the noise of the washer. Only then did he release me and get distracted by his bevy of toy cars in the family room. “Cah!” he shouted happily, as though he had feared never to see them again.

But who’s the silly one? I assume he’s afraid of the same things I’m afraid of? Just because the Unknown (capital “U”) is my biggest fear doesn’t mean it has to be his. He’s only eighteen months old. Pretty much everything is unknown to him. He doesn’t know yet to be afraid of the dark. He doesn’t worry about the future. He doesn’t even know what that means. And he barely has any past at all, so that’s not bothering him, either, most likely. He’s fully in the present moment. And he knows what he doesn’t like. That loud damn washer. He doesn’t care what I call it.

I could learn a few things from this kid.


One response

  1. I remember being afraid of vacuum cleaners when I was little. Knew what they were and I knew I wouldn’t get sucked in or anything like that. It was just the sound that terrified me. Still kinda gives me this sense of doom to this day, if I pay attention to it.

    Thanks for the morning coffee read, Chris.

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