Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jose Francisco's Fear Response

Jose Francisco is my 15 month-old baby boy. [pictures]

Jose Francisco climbed up into the rocking chair, which was padded on the seat and back, and proceeded to rock it. Maria, my wife, heard the noise and turned just in time to see him roll the chair over backwards and BANG! the whole house heard the crack on the kitchen floor. Jose, who was now on his hands and knees on the back of the chair, immediately exclaimed "Oh!" and then growled at the chair, gripping it with his little hands and shaking it.

He was mad at it, probably for scaring him.

Curious, I tried a game. Jose Francisco came up to me whilst I was sitting on the couch and I watched him and suddenly shouted "AARH!" and reached as if to grab him painfully. He startled and then laughed at me.

My baby girls, when they were his age, would have cried instantly.

I did it again. He startled, and laughed. Before I could do it again, Jose Francisco said "ah!" at me and motioned his little hands at me. I pretended to be scared, and he laughed some more. This went on for 5 minutes until dad had gotten tired of the game.

A week later I was taking my daughters to bed, tucked them in and turned out the light. Jose Francisco stood at the doorway, the hallway lit only by the television in his mother's room (and mine). I lurked back inside slowly and moaned like a zombie. Jose Francisco followed and tried to see me.

I lunged at him and growled and Jose Francisco squealed in scared delight, turn and ran. We repeated this - each time I would descend deeper into the room and lure him farther, and if I could catch up to him I would tickle the small of his back with my fingernails, and he thought this was wonderful. Three times he fell and bonked his head on something, twice the bed, once the wall. He never cried, he'd just get back up and scramble out of the room, like that was the only thing he had time to worry about.

Then I'd creep back into the room, and moan, and he'd come in again. I'd moan longer, make him come in farther into the black room, and repeat the whole process.

I must admit, having grown up in an abusive household where I got to know the local Alachua County Sheriff Deputies who'd come to visit, I find myself fascinated with my son's fear response, and have a strong desire to let him explore his natural strengths in a controlled environment before he grows 4 (at which point, psychologically, our core personalities are set).

Well the other day I went to the bathroom and didn't bother to turn on the light. Jose Francisco loves to follow me into the bathroom because he wants to watch the toilet and have me help him wash his hands and brush his teeth. If I miss the hand washing he'll complain ("uhn uhhhn!") and try to close the door until I remember. With a Mexican mother and a father grown up on a ranch, he doesn't get his own way when it's bad, but when he's right - he's right.

Well this day he came into the pitch black unlit bathroom and had no idea I was there. He went straight for the counter and started trying to reach for something to grab. I got up and "AAARHH!" shouted at him.

"AH!" he exclaimed and then immediately yelled back at me "ARRH!" and his little body lunged forward with his arms up - obviously still terrified in the instant but his response lacked any thought to it.

I turned on the light and he saw me and gave me this look, like I had just betrayed him in some small way - the look he gives me when I pick him up because he asks, and then I realize he wants me to take me with him in the van and I can't, so I hand him off to his mother, whom he can't break free of as he can with his sisters. I apologized and held him for a bit. Then it was off to play.

"If you're going to make yourself available dad, I have something else I'd like to do."

I understood him, completely.

The last line of the Bushido Creed reads:
"I have no sword; I make No Mind my Sword."

I think of Jose Francisco's reaction and marvel at him. With proper training (I plan on introducing him to Jujitsu at 5) he'll have all the confidence he needs in life. He is 15 months old and he already growls at me if I admonish his sisters in front of him, or any other thing he feels protective about.

I wonder, what will he do when he's 18.