Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to Vanquish Fear with a Magic Marker

For as long as I can remember, Lliam has had a fear of being on the upper level of buildings that are open to a lower level, especially when the walls are transparent. In particular, he is terrified of our local shopping mall. The upper level has a bunch of openings in the floor surrounded by waist-high glass walls. He also says he's afraid of this metal sculpture hanging from the ceiling.

Whenever I bring Lliam to this mall, he grips my hand like a hat in a hurricane as we ascend the stairs. He usually wants to be carried, and clings to me as if I were a tree trunk. Today I want to do a little shopping and prepare Lliam for the eventual panic before leaving the house. He immediately falls apart. I ask him repeatedly exactly what he's afraid of. Getting hurt? Falling? He doesn't have an explanation. I switch tactics. "Lliam, what is your favorite thing in the whole world?" He is overwhelmed by the question because there are too many of his favorite things, and continues bawling. I try to narrow the field a bit by asking who is favorite character is, and even that is too much.

I fall silent for a bit, realizing that anything involving logic and reason is a losing battle. I need to think like a kid. I remember that last weekend, he was fascinated by the fact that his friend Mason can do magic. She makes coins appear and disappear. I think I can use this somehow. There must be some sort of magical object in the house that Lliam can use to feel powerful and conquer his fears.

I start hunting, fumbling my way around the office, when I come across a giant black marker. Perfect. It's out of the ordinary and not something Lliam encounters every day, therefore it can be imbued with magical properties.

At this point, Lliam has stopped crying, so I bring him into the room and tell him that I have found a magic marker. I proceed to demonstrate. I ad-lib a bit, first twisting the cap to activate the magic. Then, I point it at the cat and make some appealing sprinkler-like sounds and say I'm about to turn the cat into a Transformer. Lliam is amazed, then disappointed, when he doesn't see a transformation. "You try it," I say. He does, and now he's hooked. He begins turning objects into bananas, bags, cars, etc.

Lliam starts asking me questions like what happens when you use the marker on paper? I realize at this point that I've handed a 5-year-old kid a very large, very permanent black marker. I improvise a bit and tell him that he needs to keep the cap on or else the magic will leak out. In fact, he should keep it away from the couch and all fabrics because the couch especially will eat up all the magic. This seems satisfactory, and we're off to the mall.

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