Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stranger Anxiety: Men Need Not Apply

My daughter never cries, unless she is hurt. She never whines, unless she is tired. So I know when she does either of these two things, she either has a boo boo or it is time for bed. But lately we have a new reason to cry...when a strange (mostly older) man talks to her.
No telling what would happen
if we ran into Larry

It started two months ago at my parents club: my father was walking her around the clubhouse, and the bartender (mid 60s, tall, balding, gray hair) was standing there waving and talking to M. The minute she laid eyes on him she lost it. As soon as he was out of her line of site, she was fine. The next time we visited them, the same thing happened...she sees the bartender she runs for cover.

She is deathly afraid of my dad's best friend and buries her head in my neck and cries when she sees him (early 60s, gray hair). And when introduced to any of my parent's other male friends she does the same thing.

At our 18 month appointment, our doctor walks into the room (late 40s, gray hair, glasses) and she loses her shit. She has never cried at a doctors appointment before (well, where she wasn't getting a tube put up her nose and down her throat) and she was inconsolable.

Yesterday at Whole Foods she was singing and clapping, and then the check out guy (this time 30s, dark hair) looked at her and said hello and she went ballistic! I took her out of her stroller as she was wailing and sobbing, and as soon as I turned her around so she didn't see this guy, she calmed down. He says something again, and she turns around to see him and loses it again! As soon as we headed out to the car she was calm and back to normal.

When this happens I feel so terrible for the person that it is directed towards, especially if it is someone that is a personal acquaintance. I find that I am apologizing over and over, and saying things like "oh she never cries! Something must be wrong!"My first instinct is to remove M from the situation as soon as possible, but that isn't always the easiest thing to do, especially if it is someone that works where you spend a lot of time!

I did some research, and actually talked to my doctor about this at that aforementioned appointment, and he said it is extremely common for toddlers to develop stranger anxiety around 18 months of age. Apparently anxiety is not only normal, but it is part of a toddlers cognitive and emotional development. There isn't much you can do about it, as they will eventually grow out of it. You just have to soothe your child, and reassure the poor target of this anxiety that they have done nothing wrong. It also tends to be common towards grandparents, which thank God M can't get enough of my father.

I am worried though that when we go to my father-in-law's (70, gray hair, balding, glasses) house this weekend it might be a different story. Sorry Grandpa!!

Has this happened with anyone else's kids?

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