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When my daughter was in preschool, she was afraid of many things. Santa Claus, Disney movies, and fireworks were just a few of the things she dreaded.

M&N fear of Santa

Daughter afraid of Santa, protected by aunt

She ran screaming down the hall when Santa Claus showed up one Christmas Eve. She would not take his candy cane, nor pull his beard, nor even let her aunt carry her beyond the doorway of the room where he loudly “Ho, Ho, Ho-ed.” (He still left her presents, despite her discourteous attitude.)

She did not like Ursula in The Little Mermaid, and begged me to take her home from the movie theatre, even though that would mean abandoning her big brother and the neighborhood children who had accompanied us. Burying her head in my lap was not enough; I had to take her to the lobby to placate her. (Did I ever see the end of that movie?) To this day, my daughter still will not watch horror movies or shows with too much gore, though we made it through a season of Damages together.

MP900227556As a toddler, she whined before we ever left the house when we headed out to see Fourth of July fireworks. She knew she wouldn’t like the loud noises and bright lights. The rest of us might ooh and ahh over their brilliance, but not this little girl. She wanted to be home in bed.

One year our extended family was visiting my in-laws’ home on the Lake of the Ozarks for Independence Day. After dinner, we all went to the marina to watch the fireworks. We sat on the dock in lawn chairs and batted away bugs. The humid summer air cooled as the sky darkened and the breeze blew off the lake. The hot day turned to pleasant evening as we waited for the show to begin.

With the first BANG and blaze of color, my daughter began to cry. “Let’s go,” she whimpered. “I don’t like it.”

My husband and I tried to convince her she was having fun. Her brother and cousins told her she was a wimp.

Nothing worked.

Finally, Grandpa took her on his lap. She sat facing him, away from the dazzling pyrotechnics the rest of us enjoyed.

“Look!” she said, pointing at the miniature starbursts reflected in his glasses.

The rest of us watched the real spectacle, but she sat enthralled by her tiny, private show, held safely in Grandpa’s arms.

And that’s how she got over her fear of fireworks.

This is the first Fourth of July that Grandpa is gone. He would have turned 95 last week, had he not died in September 2012. I wish I had a picture of my daughter and her grandfather that night, but all I have is the memory of a small girl and the Independence Day when she overcame her terrors with Grandpa’s help. (See here and here for other memories of Grandpa.)

How did you conquer a childhood fear?

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