Working Through Dangerous Fears with Laughter

Hey! Do you want to play, “You cross the street and then I come along and run you over?”

boy on scooterSo, my 4-year-old son and I were about to exit the gated park and walk to our car. I noticed he was a little bit off track, but I didn’t want to take the time to connect with him right then. I just wanted to get in the car and go home. Our car was parked across a busy street and I asked my son to wait for me. He dashed away from me, wanting to start a fun chase game. For me it was a trigger. Any feelings of potential danger send me off track with yelling or grabbing his arm a little too hard. (These are feelings of mine that I have since worked on during my Listening Partnership time, and I have managed to become softer and gentler in my response since then.)

I got worked up immediately—my heart was pounding and I felt so enraged that he wouldn’t come to me. He was running all around, and all I could think of that he could get hit by a car if he ran across the street before I could get to him. I yelled for him to come over here right now, and I grabbed his arm in anger and marched us across the street, with him protesting my hasty, unkind approach, and the “This Is So Dangerous!” speech that I gave him. I was quickly aware of my heightened reaction and apologized to him for reacting so angrily. I asked him how that was for him and he said, “Not good.” That sent my heart into my stomach with sorrow and regret.

I knew there was work I needed to do around crossing streets, as this was not the first outburst I’d had in this kind of situation, and I felt like a monster. I beat myself up in my head the whole rest of the evening, because of my response to this situation. “What a terrible Mom,” I thought to myself. “How can I be so abrupt with my little boy?!”

The next day I was sitting at the kitchen table and my son came rolling along the floor on his scooter and said, “ Hey! Do you want to play, “You cross the street and then I come along and run you over?” “Ah ha! Brilliant,” I thought! My little boy is working out his fear from yesterday. “Yes!” I said. I was more than happy to help release a little bit of what hurt I had so harshly inflicted.

He wanted me to pretend to wait on the side of the road, and look both ways before crossing the street. I waited on the side of our pretend street, in our dining room, and looked both ways. Just when I saw him driving down the street on his scooter he would say “Okay, now run across the street, Mommy!” I dashed across and let him gently “hit” me. (I made sure I stayed safe, and he was careful, too, in the midst of this “crash.”) Down I went, and he thought this was hysterical! He then had me pretend to get on his back and he scooted me off to the hospital. This went on and on, with plenty of laughter. He ran me over time and again, I fell every time with some comic flair, and then he rescued me. I was in awe of my son’s invention, a way to release his hurt feelings in laughter.

We’ve played this game quite a few times, always with plenty of laughs over my incompetence. I just can’t manage to cross the pretend street without getting run over by my son Every Time! Laughter was just what we both needed to heal our hurts over a scary situation.

Not surprisingly, our street crossing problems seem to have disappeared after all this silly fun. Can you believe it? I use to dread having to cross a street with my little one, and now it’s effortless. Gotta love Playlistening! It gets the job done!

– Christine Ashe-Elizondo, Certified Instructor

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