Kid Fears

If you’re a longtime reader, or are one of my parents, you will already know much, much more than you ever wanted to about my main phobias: crustaceans, people rubbing their feet together while wearing socks, being beheaded… you know the drill.

As a child, however, I had a completely different set of fears, and today I thought I’d take a look back on them, and congratulate myself on having successfully overcome them, in order to grow into the secure, grounded young woman I am today. Or, you know, not.

In no particular order then, my childhood fears included:

1. The fear that I would find out I was adopted

I have no idea why this thought even entered my head, but at some point it did, and it shook me to my core, forcing me to spend endless nights lying awake speculating upon what it would be like when my real parents came to claim me, and I was forced to leave the bosom of my loving, and yet totally fake, family, and go to live with strangers. I worried about this to such an extent that my mum finally had to show me a copy of my birth certificate and answer probing questions designed to establish whether a) she had, in fact, been present at my birth (Answer: yes, but given that when she came round from the anesthetic she apparently asked the nurse why they were allowing a horse to dance on her stomach, she can be considered an unreliable witness) and b) whether she was in the business of manufacturing fake documents, such as birth certificates, for example. Once these questions had been answered to my satisfaction, I dropped this fear, and turned it into a fantasy, in which the very thing I’d feared so much actually came to pass, and my real parents – the King and Queen of Eastern Falloulaland – came to collect me. “The Rolls is waiting outside, darling,” my mother, the Queen, would always say in this fantasy. “Get in and we’ll take you to pick out a pony…”

I did, obviously, eventually get over both fear and fantasy in this case. I still think about the pony A LOT, though.

2. The fear that my parents would get divorced

Again, I have no idea where this one sprung from. Because my parents share a brain, there was rarely so much as a cross word between them, and they’re still happily married to this day. In fact, I didn’t even KNOW anyone whose parents were divorced, so why would I spend time fretting over the possibility of it happening to MY parents? Who knows. I did, though, and spent more of my childhood nights worrying about what would happen were my parents to divorce. Who would I live with? How would I make sure neither parent felt favouritised by my presence? Would I still be able to go to the same school? What if one parent decided to move to Eastern Falloulaland? Who would take me to my riding lessons? Bizarre. Sometimes I wish I could go back and visit my younger self and say, “Hey, you: your parents don’t get divorced, and you’re not adopted, so stop wasting your life worrying about it. Maybe drop some stronger hints about the pony, though…”

3. The house catching on fire and burning to a crisp

By now you will be totally unsurprised to learn that there was no reason for this fear that I can recall. I didn’t know anyone whose house burned down, there weren’t any burnt-out houses in our street, and while it’s conceivable that I may have seen something on TV about a burnin’, I have no recollection of that either. And yet sometimes I would force myself to stay awake until my parents had gone to bed, then creep to the top of the stairs and sit there sniffing the air like a bloodhound to make sure the house was not burning down beneath us. Strangely enough, none of my house burning fears included the fear of death, or of actually being burnt. In fact, in all of the many, many times I went through this scenario in my head, I can’t remember ever worrying about how we’d get out, or whether we would survive. Instead, the fears revolved around what the house would look like AFTER it had burned: the blackened rooms, the melted furniture, the loss of all of my possessions. I was absolutely horrified by the thought of having to go inside a house that had been on fire, and for this reason I think I MUST have at some point seen a photo or something that triggered this obsession, but hey, who knows. I remember my parents once took me to a “fire sale” when I was young and I was absolutely HORRIFIED to think they would risk all our lives in search of bargains. I also refused to touch anything, in case there was some residual spark just waiting to ignite…

These days, I don’t even think about the possibility of things going on fire, and would probably plunge into a towering inferno myself, if I thought there might be bargains to be had inside. My parents done taught me good.

4. Being forced to eat in someone else’s house

I’m pretty sure this was triggered by being offered food and urged to eat it while inside a house that had a funny smell. Naturally, this horrified my young self, and for a while, every time we went to someone’s house, my mother would have to repeatedly assure me that I wouldn’t have to eat anything there if I didn’t want to. What a little bitch I was, huh? Now, I will eat anywhere: phobia dismissed.

I’m sure there were more of these, but I’m also sure that’s more than enough sharing for now.

Tell me, though: what were your kid fears?

(I also fear going somewhere and failing to be perfectly coordinated with my surroundings…)


27 Comments

  • Steph says:

    Depressingly, I am probably way more frightened of things as an adult than I am as a child – not only do I keep developing new fears but they aren’t even proper sensible grown-up fears (most recently, I decided I am scared of Dr Bunsen from the Muppets. He has no eyes but he still wears spectacles! What kind of sane god allowed that to happen?)

    I think I had quite a few abandonment fears as a nipper – you know, that my parents wouldn’t come and collect me after school or they’d drive off with abother child and like the other child more (I don’t think I ever considered that the other child’s parents might have something to say about that).

    I used to believe that all my cuddly toys came to life when I went out of the room but I was occasionally afraid that they might be Up To Something. Honestly, the film Toy Story did not help.

    I was very afraid of evil things crawling out of my TV or mirror to eat me (thank goodness I was too young for The Ring!) I’m still afraid of evil things crawling out of my mirror but can happily report that the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a mirror has been my own face.

    Oh, and I was always afraid of my house burning down too. In fact, I was afraid of everything that ever has a public safety advert made about it. Those adverts exist to make you about 2% more informed and 800% more frightened. I have never been killed or mutilated by a sparkler because, thanks to those ads every Bonfire Night, I have never dared to go *near* a sparkler!

    • Amber says:

      Steph, are you sure you’re not secretly related to me? I share SO many of these. I mean, Dr Bunsen? WHY? Why with the no eyes? Why did someone think he was an appropriate character for children’s TV? (I also hated the Count in Sesame Street, but more so as a teenager, because he reminded me of my chemistry teacher, who I was terrifed of. Not that I was watching Sesame Street as a teenager, you understand. Not much, anyway.)

      Also: cuddly toys coming to life? Check. I also – and this is really, really embarrasing – but as a kid, I had the walls of my bedroom plastered with posters: pop stars of the day, er, famous horse-riding people etc, and I used to get changed in the bathroom because I felt like they were watching me. I sometimes still feel uncomfortable in rooms with lots of photos, because I feel the little eyes on me.

      I didn’t fear things coming out of the TV until I watched The Ring, mind you: to this day, though, I suspect that if our TV ever switched on by itself, I would die on the spot.

      • Steph says:

        You know, one of my favourite things about reading your blog is that I get to point at posts and go ‘Aha! I knew I wasn’t the only one!’ :D

        Because I? Also used to be afraid of posters looking at me. My friend had a poster of Paul Nicholls on the back of her bedroom door and I used to hate whenever she would go off to the bathroom and leave me alone with him. I was convinced he was staring at the back of my head. I like to tell myself that, instead of being mad, I was in fact super-alert to potential predators and wise and in touch with my evolutionary heritage. Yes. (Not that I’m trying to imply that Paul Nicholls is a potential predator).

        • Panthera says:

          I have somewhat the same thing, I have huge problems with eyes, especially more scary, annoyed eyes. To this day I have not been able to read The Hound of Baskerville because the dog's eyes creep me out..

  • Karen says:

    My primary fear began when I was 5 years old. My house was robbed while we were at a family party. We got home in the wee hours only to discover mud-tracks in our front yard, a broken basement door, and all the TV's and some of my mother's jewelry missing.

    At the time, I was just relieved that the thieves had left my bike (and my sister's). It didn't start upsetting me until about middle school, when I hated being left home alone. It was worst after I graduated from college and got my first apartment with my now-husband. If I was home alone, I'd sleep with all the lights on, and always quadruple check the locks and windows.

    It's better since then, but occasionally I still become terrorized by the thought of burglary or home invasion.

    • Amber says:

      Oh wow, yeah, I can see how that would traumatize you at any age: we're lucky never to have been broken into, but I would imagine the invasion of your home/privacy (not to mention the loss of your possessions) would be just awful…

  • Hayley says:

    I was absolutely terrified that my dolls would come to life and do evil things to me. But, I knew that my stuffed animals would come to my defense, so I would line them up all around the edge of my bed when I went to sleep at night. Also any sort of pictures with faces in them…I always felt like they were staring at me in bed at night. Every time my mom would try to put up, say, a picture of pretty ballerinas or cute little girls, they would only last a night or two before I’d wake my parents up screaming. And of course there are mirrors at night, which I am still scared of to this day.

    I was also scared of vampires way before this whole vampire phenom. And I was always afraid someone was going to try to kidnap me, so every time I entered a new environment, I would dream up scenarios of how I would escape should someone try to nab me.

    • Amber says:

      Oh yeah, the stuffed animals would always come to the rescue: dolls, on the other hand, are just plain scary! I remember when I was little, I begged my parents for one of those china dolls – you know the ones with the chalk white faces which, for some reason are always dressed in Victorian style clothes? Eventually I got one, and as beautifully made as that doll was, it always kinda scared the crap out of me…

      • Hayley says:

        At some point in time, I also asked for one of those dolls (which of course terrified me once I had it). My grandmother then decided that I should start collecting them, much to my dismay. By the time I left home, I probably had 10 of those horrid dolls hidden in the back of my closet. I just knew they were going to kill me in my sleep, or at the very least, wake me up with some maniacal laughing.

        • Amber says:

          Aargh! That would’ve kept me awake at night! When I was in university, my best friend and I shared a flat: she had a china clown doll, and of course, of all the dolls, in all the world, clown dolls would have to be the most frightening (we called him “Chucky”, obviously). Anyway, sometimes she would get up and place Chucky in the hall, or outside my bedroom door, so that if I got up in the night I would think he was on his way to Get Me. She always threatened to one night place him at the foot of my bed, but I think she realised the fear could actually have killed me, so she never did. Ah, those were the days!

  • annet says:

    i had a strange fear as a child… i was about six years old and it was the middle of the whole dutroux-case (a pedophile who abducted and eventually killed young girls)

    my parents never really talked about it (they probably wanted to spare me) so i just got messages from the radio talking about girls being missing and found dead in a basement.

    around that time i got really afraid to be in a car with my dad. i knew he’d never harm me, but whenever we went somewhere and he would take a different road to get there i started to panic inside, thinking about how he could take us somewhere else. i never showed this fear though, it was always in my head.

    • Amber says:

      Aww, that’s really sad… That kind of thing can really be frightening for kids to hear about: I remember a little girl was abducted in Edinburgh when I was young. There was all kinds of publicity about it and I think we had talks about it at school etc: the girl happened to be the same age as me at the time, so it was all particularly horrifying.

  • Megan says:

    I had a fear of getting lost. I would panic if the bus would take us on a different route, because I was worried I wouldn't end up where I needed to be. I think it was kind of irrational as it was the school bus, and it's only purpose was to pick us up and drop us off at the same place everyday.

    Still to this day if I'm taking the bus I have to confirm I know absolutely what the bus' route is and that i'm going to make it to my destination.

    • Amber says:

      Oh, it's funny you should mention that: just last week I was telling Terry about how, when I was younger (and actually, not even that MUCH younger, if I'm perfectly honest) I had this paranoia about getting onto the wrong train by mistake. I've no idea why the thought of this happening bothered me so much – I mean, the worst that could possibly happen would be that I'd have had to get off at the first stop and get another train back, it's not like the train would've taken me to the MOON or something – but it really did. That's why I am one of those annoying people who gets onto the train and then walks along the aisle stopping at every person and going, "Is this is the Edinburgh train?" And no matter how many people assure me that yes, THIS IS THE EDINBURGH TRAIN, I will still have to ask more people, because I just won't believe them.

      • katri says:

        This actually happened to me fairly recently, which is why I’m now scared of Manchester. Yeah. We’d been in Manchester for the evening and were to take the last train back to our little town in Cumbria, but we ended up on the Liverpool train instead! We had absolutely no other chance but to go all the way to Liverpool and then return to Manchester, and then we spent the night at the airport as it was too late to get a hotel room or anything. Now I’m scared of going there again, because what if we can never return?!

  • Nikki G says:

    As a very young girl I was afraid of the moon and of water. Also, apparently I referred to myself as "The Baby" even though I'm an only child. So, at night I didn't want to see the night sky or take a bath and my mom would have to listen to me cry and wail "The Baby's scared of the moon/water." I had issues. I also was convinced that I was adopted, mainly because I look nothing like either of my parents. After I got over the fear of the moon and water I moved on to a fear of the dark and a fear of spiders, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm still afraid of both of these things. :-)

    • Amber says:

      I know I shouldn’t laugh, but this just really made me giggle :) I think I’m going to start randomly shouting “The baby’s scared of the moon!” in the middle of the night, just to wind Terry up. Actually, the moon is a perfectly valid thing to be scared of, I think: or at least, the full moon is – I almost never get through one without some bizarre incident of internet weirdness!

  • Jane says:

    I too lived my life in daily fear of fire, with no logical cause to be found.

    To the extent that I would go to bed with my shoes on, clutching my school bag, into which I had packed my most beloved teddybear, books and other worldly belongings.

    And sometimes I even insisted on sandwiches to go into this ready-for-evacuation-from-a-burning-inferno disaster kit.

    Because clearly my mad child brain thought I might need a snack to tuck into while standing outside on the pavement, watching my house burn to a crisp and feeling smug about everyone else having bare feet.

    Nutter.

    • Amber says:

      Ooh, you've just reminded me of another one: the fear that something (I have no idea what, it was always just a vague "something") would happen and I would be forced to run outside in my bare feet. For this reason, I refused to take my shoes off other than when I was either having a bath or in bed: and, like you, I always felt smug at the thought of how well prepared I'd be when the un-named incident finally came to pass and everyone else had to stand outside in bare feet!

  • Jaynie says:

    I had that exact fear of fire! It had nothing to do with death and everything to do with the way things look post-fire. I’m pretty sure we had a “fire-safety” lecture at school once where they showed us pictures of homes and businesses where the insides were all blackened and everything was melted and twisty. I think that sort of thing is pretty grotesque.

    I also couldn’t change in front of my posters, and had this weird fear that if someone was touching me (like, say, my mother holding my hand to cross the streets) they would be able to hear my thoughts. Which, naturally, meant that I invariably began to think the most horrible things about that person that I really didn’t believe, in an effort to plan out what I would do if they caught me thinking something so horrible. I was, perhaps, a bit of a silly child.

    Also: Ballroom dancing set to modern rock music. IDK it just always made my stomach turn (thankfully it doesn’t come up too often!)

    • Amber says:

      Oh my God! I honestly thought I was the only one who had the “people can hear my thoughts” thing! Mine wasn’t connected to people touching me, and it was only an opccassional fear, but every so often I would worry that I had some weird kind of disease which made my thoughts audible to people, and that everyone in my school, etc, had been told about this and instructed not to react to it, so I would remain unware. (Because expecting a school full of evil kids not to react to something like that would be almost realistic as people being able to hear thoughts.) Any time this occured to me I would deliberately start directing “thoughts” at people, designed to try and get them to react, thus proving my theory correct. Which it, er, wasn’t.

      • Jaynie says:

        I should have known that if anyone would share my weird and hilarious childhood concerns it would be you. :) I'm sure I did the "directing my thoughts at people as a test" thing, too, only I was very, very good at rationalizing it when my test "failed" (obviously they were too polite to say anything!)

  • Panthera says:

    I'm also one of those who have become more scared and acquired more fobies as I've "matured".

    But, one of the things I was terrified of for several years, was that "the nothing" would come and make my legs disappear.

    I was certain that the nothing would gather in my room up to my bed linen, and if I put one finger outside the bed it would be gone.

    Apparently, I shouldn't have been allowed to hear "Neverending story" as a radio play when I was 7.

    My most recurrent fear, that has progressed as I've aged is my fear of stuffed animals (not the cozy kind). As a kid I was also terrified of dinosaur models, especially the ones that move.

    Now I have problems with everything that seems frozen in time, including mannequins and statues.

    I would probably be a lot more afraid of a stuffed tiger than a real one..

    • Amber says:

      Oh God, yes, mannequins are pretty scary: remember that movie from the 80s where a mannequin came to life and Tom Hanks (I think) fell in love with it? That movie troubled me.

      • Panthera says:

        I have a vague memory of something like that, but funnily enough, films with mannequins don’t really scare me. I have no trouble with “night on the museum”, or the doctor who episode where mannequins came to life, on the other hand, the statue episode, season 3 ep. 10: “blink”, scared me so much I walked around constantly spinning around to look behind me and being afraid to blink for two weeks.

        And speaking of scary viewing, I still can’t handle open closet doors, 6 years after I saw “the ring”..

  • Rebecca says:

    I have an anxiety disorder, so I am afraid of just about everything. Except food and stuff like that. But seriously, even the thought of gym class makes me panic. But I am a complete klutz, and I injure myself a lot, so maybe that’s not a completely irrational fear. So, you name it, I am probably afraid of it! It will be interesting to see what I’m afraid of when I’m an adult.

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