Phobias

The other day we went to our local reservoir to feed the ducks. It is a well-known spot for this activity and as a result the ducks are very tame and VERY huge! I chose a spot that wasn't used as the main feeding location, thinking maybe not quite so many ducks would flood to our feet and maybe they wouldn't be quite as...eager. I was wrong.

There wasn't a lot of birds to begin with, but as soon as we launched our first bread slice in their direction we were suddenly inundated. At first they kept their distance, satisfied that we were throwing it far enough for them, but when we gave H a bit to throw hers didn't land quite so far away and so they all lunged forward, battling for a crumb. Within seconds they were all heading our way, climbing the small embankment that blocked their path. Ducks, swans and pigeons, all squawking, their beaks wide open, waiting for food.

I am not one for fears, the only thing I have ever been afraid of was death - my own and those I love. My sister has always had a massive phobia of spiders, though, and still does and I have watched her loose it at the sight of the tiniest one, having to check her bed on a night before she can sleep. I am not trying to mock her in any way. For her and those who experience phobias, it is a horrible feeling to be so fearful of something.

So birds have never bothered me. However these ones freaked me out - they were huge and they very quickly marched our way, ready to peck the food from our hands. I found myself screeching a little, throwing the remainder of the bread at them and pulling the children away very quickly. As I did so, H started to cry a little and looked on in fear at the birds.

I checked myself. I do not want to encourage any kind of phobia in the children. From speaking to others they can be debilitating and I do not want the children to worry about something that is not necessary. So I told H that the ducks were very greedy and we had given them all our bread so it was time to go to the swings. I used my fallback word for anything that upsets her or makes her unreasonably angry - silly. Those silly ducks.

But the incident did made me think about phobias in our children. I have quite often heard of them being passed down from parent to child and I want to prevent this as much as I can. Recently my in-laws have had an ant infestation in their conservatory and I overheard my mother-in-law telling someone that H was scared of them. I quickly intervened telling H that they were only little ants, hurrying to their homes and nothing to be afraid of. I'm sure my mother-in-law meant no harm but I wanted to nip it in the bud then and there.

It does highlight how impressionable our little people are and how careful we have to be. It makes me wish for this magical parenting manual that would tell us exactly the right way to go about these problems! Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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