I thought it was really weird yesterday morning when Oliver kept telling me to keep his bedroom door shut, even when we were downstairs. I chalked it up to a door obsession or other strange toddler quirk. Then later when we were going upstairs for nap time, and he stopped and said "Please put animals away!" in a very sad desperate voice. I asked him why and he said, "I scared." I tried to reassure him that they were just toys, but he started getting upset. I didn't want him to start a fit before nap, so I just went up and grabbed them all and threw them in our room and shut the door. Only after he heard our door shut would he come upstairs. He has a ton of stuffed animals, maybe 50? Here's the only picture I could find, from the day he trashed his room:
See all the stuffed animals on the top of his bookshelves? There are probably another dozen more than that, but they were scattered around his room that day.
It's really strange, this new fear. His favorite game used to be taking all his animals and piling them on top of mommy as I sat in the recliner. Or he'd put them all in his crib and sit with them. Here's a pic of that from a year ago:
But here is where they live today, in a pile on the floor in the corner of our master bedroom:
I have no idea where this fear came from. A bad dream perhaps? I had no idea how to handle this, so I spent his nap time searching online and reading in my toddler books. I learned that at around age 3, many toddlers suddenly develop new fears, and that it's completely normal, and usually fades in a few months. The advice was to validate and acknowledge his feelings, don't force him to confront the fear, but try to gently deal with it. One piece of advice on dealing with fears in general was to have him pick a favorite stuffed animal to act as his "protector." Hmmmm, well, I don't think that's going to work in this case! Apparently the fear of animals is a common one, though none of the books mention stuffed animals. But thinking about it, it does seem to tie into his recent demonstrations of fear. At Christmas, when he was scared of the dog at Marty's aunt's house. And at our recent visit to the zoo where he was scared of many of the animals and really freaked out when that damn goose honked at him.
I was a very fearful child (more than normal), and I remember my mom being exasperated by it. But I also remember how very real those fears were. So it's really weird for me to be on the other side of it. I definitely don't want Oliver to be as afraid of everything as I was, so I really hope this is just a short lived phase.
When he woke up from his nap, I was in my room sorting laundry and daddy had just come home. Oliver came in our room, and said, "Oh, there they are! Why my animals in here?" I answered, "Because you asked me to take them out of your room." Then he looked at Marty and said very solemnly, "Daddy, I scared." So we gently asked him what he was scared of, and he just said "my animals." I asked if there were certain ones he was scared of, and he said, "Yeah, the Grinch." Aha! So then I asked him if he wanted to choose some that he wasn't scared of to put back in his room. So he picked out the penguin and giraffe, and said he wanted to take them downstairs. Then daddy, ever efficient, started picking up animals and asking, "What about this one?" Unfortunately, he picked up a monster one (it's a cute little funny stuffed monster we've had since he was born), and Oliver freaked out. So we were done with that game. We went downstairs, and he carried the penguin and giraffe around the rest of the night. Before bedtime, I asked if he wanted to pick out any more nice stuffed animals to put in his room, but he didn't. He also didn't want to take the penguin and giraffe upstairs, saying they would sleep downstairs.
So the Grinch thing is interesting, because (and I was going to do a whole blog about this) in recent weeks, he has been obsessed with the Grinch. He loved it at Christmas, watched the movie every day, and Grandma got him the book and stuffed Grinch (see him on the top of the pile), and then a DVD after Christams. He also found clips of the movie on Youtube, and was watching them every day. He'd cover his eyes during the "scary" parts, but really loved watching it.
So my best guess is that he had a dream involving the Grinch after days of watching it or simply his almost 3 year old imagination is acting up. The books say it's actually a good sign, and yes, a developmental milestone, because it means they have an active imagination. Great. Another milestone. Can't wait for the next one!