I read somewhere that FEAR is an acronym. That it doesn’t really exist until we create it. And the things that make us afraid are things that other people live with.
Last weekend was incredible. Papa Laban, my maternal grandfather, came into town and the entire family, save for a few members, descended upon my parent’s neighborhood where we hang out with him, ate, drank, sang and were merry, for 2 days! It was so much fun.
We consider pets to be family members too, so Aunty Subira came with Rafiki, her dog and Mich, my sister, also had Sifa her dog there with her. Sifa and Rafiki are Pomeranian Spitzs, a breed of dog whose most prominent characteristic is protectiveness. This usually manifests itself as barking at anyone who threatens their ‘person’ and running around like a mad animal whenever their ‘person’ comes home.
Anyway, as we were sitting down to lunch after church on Sunday, we had Sifa and Rafiki on their leashes in the same area. Kendi went over to say hi and touch them just as Eko, Ryan and Desmond (my cousins) were walking in. I should mention that these dogs really hate men- even men that they know- and nobody can figure out why. The dogs started to bark and act crazy. By doing that, one of their leashes wrapped around Kendi and tripped her up but before she could fall, Norah, my other cousin, grabbed her. It was so loud and chaotic that Kendi burst out crying. The dogs barking, the people yelling for the dogs to stop barking, almost falling down, being scooped up, proved too much for my tough little monster.
This situation all took place in 10 seconds or less and as it was happening, a light bulb went on in my head- ‘I really don’t want Kendi to be afraid of these dogs that she’s always playing with.’ So I got up, took her from Norah and put her to stand next to me near the dogs in exactly the same spot where she was when they started barking. I knelt down and said, ‘Kendi, mos ahinya. Wach No!’ (Kendi, I’m really sorry. Say No!) and I pointed dramatically at the dogs.
She continued to cry. I continued to console and hug her, but I didn’t pick her up. I told her over and over ‘wach No!’ and pointing at the dogs. After about the 7th time, she stopped crying, pointed at the dogs and said ‘No!’ I celebrated with her and everyone else who was there (I hadn’t realized they had been watching us). When she did it again and we celebrated, she let go of me and continued on with her day. I stood up and went back to my lunch leaving her there near the dogs. The afternoon went on with Kendi walking past the dogs, touching them, talking to other people- it was as if they hadn’t even scared her in the first place.
What I was hoping to achieve was power for my daughter. I needed her to believe that the dogs scaring her were her choice, not theirs- very heavy lesson for a little girl but it might have saved her from a lifelong phobia of little furry dogs.