We were walking through the park the other day when DorkySon suddenly stopped and let out an ear-piercing shriek.
“What is it?” I asked.
“There’s a squirrel,” he said, pointing, and shrieked again.
I’m confused. We see squirrels most days on our walks through the park, and they don’t usually provoke any reaction.
“What’s wrong with the squirrel?” I asked.
“It’s going to steal my toys,” he said, before grabbing my hand and pulling me quickly past.
I explained that squirrels didn’t really like playing with toys – that they preferred to just play hide and seek in the trees and collect nuts and berries – but this didn’t seem to reassure him any.
“How could a squirrel steal your toys anyway?” I asked. “They don’t have any hands!”
“They steal toys with their mouths,” said DorkySon, looking at me as though I was stupid.
This has started to become a bit of a ‘thing’ recently, and I’m not sure how to deal with it. He has never been massively interested in animals (“I only like cars and trucks!”) but they haven’t ever freaked him out like this either.
Along with last week’s squirrel incident, he had a meltdown in the middle of the high street because there was a pigeon walking around on the pavement nearby, and we’ve had to take several long detours around the park to avoid dogs that he has spotted. “I don’t like dogs,” he’ll say. “They scare me. They say woof too loudly and they’re always angry.”
I’ve been racking my brains to try and think of anything that might have triggered this newfound fear of small furry things – and he does seem genuinely quite frightened and upset by them – but I’m struggling. The only thing I could link to the toy-stealing-squirrel was a Kipper book in which a couple of wee mice hide one of Kipper’s cuddly toys from him, but it’s not a scary book, and it all ends well.
When we’re safely back at home and we chat about birds and dogs, he seems happy enough. He giggles when he remembers a friend’s dog licking his toes when he was a baby, and he often says that he’d like to get a puppy to look after when he’s older.
I don’t want to make a big deal out of this – but nor do I want to have to reassure a screaming, crying toddler every time we go out for a walk and some poor, decrepit old labrador, minding its own business, makes the mistake of wandering within our line of vision.
Perhaps this is just another of these development stages, where DorkySon’s imagination is taking another leap forward and he’s starting to become more aware of possible dangers in the world. That’s probably a good thing. But how can I reassure him that the squirrels aren’t all out to steal his toys, and the pigeons are unlikely to be pecking his toes anytime soon?
I don’t often ask for advice on here, but the collective wisdom of the parent blogosphere would be most welcome!