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SLP Mommy of Apraxia: If we don't say we're scared, does it mean we don't have fears?

Monday, February 17, 2014

If we don't say we're scared, does it mean we don't have fears?

Ashlynn almost drowned...twice. Okay, maybe I'm being dramatic, but that's how a mother feels when a lifeguard has to jump in and save your child.  The first was during her first ever swim lesson and the second was during a random winter session her Grandpa took her to.  Both times she just walked off the toddler platform as though she could swim, and both times a lifeguard had to dive in a save her.  The first time, she seemed to have forgotten the incident just as quickly as it had happened; but the second left fear, only apparent from her refusal to get in or go near the water two months later.

She never told us she was scared, though we asked and she would nod her head yes. In fact, come to think of it, my now four year old has never told me she was scared.

I remember parts of being four.  I was afraid of everything.  Currently, not much has changed. I've always been afraid of things. I hated the typical things like monsters and ghosts, but clowns and mascots always freaked me out too.  It struck me that though I can tell Ashlynn is afraid now of swimming, she has never told me and that makes me sad.

We always say we want to know their hopes and dreams, but what about their fears? Fear is a human condition. Facing fears is one thing, but kids need and look to parents for reassurance.  How do you reassure your child though, when you don't know what they need reassuring on?

The family took an impromptu, much needed weekend getaway.  After taking Ashlynn to her swim lessons and watching her be afraid to even step in the water, my husband was excited to go to a hotel and practice her swimming.  Ashlynn was doing SO good with swimming last summer, even blowing bubbles and getting her face wet.

Ashlynn acted excited to go swimming.  Kept talking about the pool and asking if we could go swimming.  However, once there, she wouldn't come in despite my husband's gentle prodding with arms outstretched.  If he went to grab her, she'd pull back and start crying.  I got in the pool and tried.  I saw the fear in her eyes.  "Are you scared Ashlynn?"  I asked, and she would cry and say, "yes".  I'd tell her that I'd catch her, but she'd still cry and shake her head no.  I finally said, "Baby, I won't let you fall, ok?"  Immediately I saw the fear leave her eyes and she verified, "yes?"  Realizing her fear was that she would fall, I said again and more confidently, "Ashlynn, I will NEVER let you fall" and then I said a quick prayer as fear gripped ME, that in every situation the Lord would guide my hands so that I would indeed never let her fall.

She extended her arms and swung them around my neck and we entered the pool together. I kept reassuring her that daddy wouldn't let her fall either and she went on to jump into his arms, do her back floats, and blow her bubbles.

One day I know she will express her fears, and as her mother, I will always be here to reassure her, protect her, and just love her.  For now though, I'll continue to do what all mothers who have a child with apraxia do...anticipate their needs, give our best guess at their desires, and express their fears for them until they have a voice to do it all on their own.   

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