On Saturday afternoon, my father took Edith down to the neighborhood pool for a swim. He came back haunted and traumatized. He told me in shocked tones how the afternoon had gone: Edith was very happy to go swimming; she enjoyed the water and the splash pad. But then, while she was happily playing in the splash pad, Dad turned around for half a second to grab his phone to take a photo, and suddenly, Edith leapt into the pool. I had warned him that this would happen and that it would feel very unexpected. She waits until your attention is diverted. He jumped in and fished her out where she’d sunk like a stone, and he worried that she would now be scared of swimming, having undergone something so horrific.
After this, Edith started to retrieve things from the stroller and throw them into the pool. “Everything that she could lift and wasn’t tied down went into the pool,” said my father, still clearly in shock. While he was retrieving those things, she jumped into the pool again and had to be fished out. I would not have fallen for this — it was an obvious attempt at a diversion.
Then, she began to run laps around the pool, faster and faster. “She must have run around the pool fifty times,” he said. “And she has to run right along the brink of the pool’s edge.” So, she went into the deep several more times. “It never seemed to phase her!” he said, aghast. “She choked on a lot of pool water, but as soon as she was done coughing, she was jumping in again.”
Also, the bees were an issue: the yellow-flowered bushes along the pool’s fence are teeming with big fat bumblebees and as previously mentioned, Edith loves bees, so this introduced another challenge for Dad. “She chased them everywhere, I don’t know how she didn’t get stung,” he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he concluded and then he took a long nap.
Edith really has no fear. I would say this is typical of toddlers, but from observing toddlers at baby gym and Edith’s swimming class, I have realized that they come in one of two categories: either they have no fear (and seemingly an active death wish), or they are frightened of everything. I was more the latter, but my daughter has never been frightened of anything. She is an adrenaline junkie and she takes injuries and accidents in stride. When she hurts herself, she either has no reaction at all, or she runs to me screaming and crying, I hold her for exactly one second, and then she immediately flails and kicks out of my arms to get back to what she was doing, like cuddling was all my idea. And even at these times, she really seems more outraged than afraid.
For example, at baby gym on Saturday morning she fell off a stack of mats directly onto the top of her head and after a one-second Mom cry/flail, she climbed back up and repeated the exact same move two more times glaring at the offending floor with fury each time she fell. After that, I quietly moved a second mat next to the stack, because I was afraid she was going to give herself a concussion, and when she landed upright on that mat, she strutted off in apparent victory.
For her entire short life, only one thing has truly frightened her. This thing:
Pictured is a little plastic bath toy with a pull-string that winds up a propeller which, when released, propels it through the bath water.
Edith hates this thing. She can’t figure out what its deal is. I have tried to introduce it maybe every other month and she is always interested in it as a stationary toy, but as soon as I make it swim through the water, she exclaims in distress (I can’t translate Edith-speak yet, but from the tone, I imagine she is saying something along the lines of “wtf!”) and stands up in the bath and grabs at me to be lifted out.
I even show her how it moves and let it go against her leg so she knows it won’t hurt her, and she continues to request to get out of the tub. Her attitude is less open terror and more something like, “that isn’t right, I don’t mess around with stuff like that, I don’t even like that guy’s vibe.” She won’t relax until I put the toy back in the cabinet.
So even the most fearless among us have our kryptonite.
I know it isn’t the monkey, though, because one of Edith’s more recent obsessions is another monkey: a stuffed one on a long leash. It’s actually meant to be a baby leash where the baby wears the stuffed monkey as a little backpack and the caregiver holds on to the leash, and Edith wore it for maybe two days when she was littler, but she very rapidly reversed that power dynamic, and now she drags this freaking monkey behind her everywhere she goes.
On the one hand, it keeps her entertained. She probably dragged it around the kitchen island for half an hour last night while I read a book. But on the other hand, the thing is filthy. She drags it all over the neighborhood and all around the back yard, through the dirt and mud and puddles and shavings and everything else and whenever I take it from her to wash it, she throws an ear-shattering fit.
I really don’t understand the appeal. She does not interact with it in any other way, other than to drag it behind her on its face, but it seems to be answering some deep need in her for the moment, so far be it from me to interfere. It does seem rather hard on the monkey, though.
Watching Edith dragging the monkey around, I kept trying to think of what it reminded me of, and finally I realized: