Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tidying Up Trepidation

Dear Delilah,

As a newborn, loud noises didn't phase you. You would never flinch when Sadie started barking to announce the arrival of a guest. At just 6 weeks old, you slept through one of your uncle's basketball games, the noise level so high I was worried your hearing would be damaged.

Your seeming unawareness of shifts in decibels started to change when you were around three months old. Suddenly you started jumping at Sadie's bark. Bursts of applause frightened you. The worst of all? The vacuum cleaner.

Your reaction to the obnoxious whir of the vacuum was one of terror. For nearly a year now, we have painstakingly avoided traumatizing you with the vacuum cleaner by taking care of that chore while one or the other of us has you out of the house, during the narrow window of time between the moment when you first start stirring from your nap and the moment when you become annoyed that you haven't been rescued from your crib yet, or as a last resort, when we leave you in your room and shut the door for a few minutes so we can get it taken care of.

No more.

I decided that enough was enough, and fell back on my education in counseling theories to get you past your fear. I figured it was nothing that a little Exposure Therapy couldn't take care of, and it turns out I was right!

I started out by just putting the vacuum cleaner in the room with us while you played and I tidied up and swept the floor. I explained that I was going to be vacuuming soon, and it was going to get noisy. After little more than a curious glance, you returned to your toys. When I started to push it around without turning it on, I reminded you that it was going to get loud soon, but that there was no need to be scared, because the noise meant the floor was getting clean and was nothing to be scared of. A look of concern passed over you face, but it was short-lived.

Finally, I secured you on my hip in a sling and got ready to get down to business. I gave you one last warning that it was going to be loud, and then flipped the switch. I was slightly taken aback when you didn't start crying, but merely clung to me a little bit tighter and buried your face in my shoulder. After a few moments, you grew more and more brave, and started gazing at the vacuum cleaner inquisitively, as though you were trying to remember what the fuss was all about in the first place.

I was impressed with how quickly and easily you overcame your aversion to the vacuum. By the time we got to the last room on the itinerary, your bedroom, you were leaning precariously over the edge of the sling, reaching for the handle to "help" me push the vacuum around. I'd like to think that it's my stellar therapeutic skills that got you so swiftly past your apprehension, but I've got to give credit where credit is due, and you're becoming more confident, curious, and independent with each passing day.

Next on the agenda, I need to figure out how to gradually expose you to sudden bursts of cheering and applause. Your uncle's basketball season is over, but baseball season is just around the corner!



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