If you’re a longtime reader, or are one of my parents, you will already know much, much more than you ever wanted to about my main phobias: crustaceans, people rubbing their feet together while wearing socks, being beheaded… you know the drill.
As a child, however, I had a completely different set of fears, and today I thought I’d take a look back on them, and congratulate myself on having successfully overcome them, in order to grow into the secure, grounded young woman I am today. Or, you know, not.
In no particular order then, my childhood fears included:
Finding out I was adopted
I have no idea why this thought even entered my head, but at some point it did, and it shook me to my core, forcing me to spend endless nights lying awake speculating upon what it would be like when my real parents came to claim me, and I was forced to leave the bosom of my loving, and yet totally fake, family, and go to live with strangers. I worried about this to such an extent that my mum finally had to show me a copy of my birth certificate and answer probing questions designed to establish whether a) she had, in fact, been present at my birth (Answer: yes, but given that when she came round from the anesthetic she apparently asked the nurse why they were allowing a horse to dance on her stomach, she can be considered an unreliable witness) and b) whether she was in the business of manufacturing fake documents, such as birth certificates, for example. Once these questions had been answered to my satisfaction, I dropped this fear, and turned it into a fantasy, in which the very thing I’d feared so much actually came to pass, and my real parents – the King and Queen of Eastern Falloulaland – came to collect me. “The Rolls is waiting outside, darling,” my mother, the Queen, would always say in this fantasy. “Get in and we’ll take you to pick out a pony…”
I did, obviously, eventually get over both fear and fantasy in this case. I still think about the pony A LOT, though.
My parents getting divorced
Again, I have no idea where this one sprung from. Because my parents share a brain, there was rarely so much as a cross word between them, and they’re still happily married to this day. In fact, I didn’t even KNOW anyone whose parents were divorced, so why would I spend time fretting over the possibility of it happening to MY parents? Who knows. I did, though, and spent more of my childhood nights worrying about what would happen were my parents to divorce. Who would I live with? How would I make sure neither parent felt favouritised by my presence? Would I still be able to go to the same school? What if one parent decided to move to Eastern Falloulaland? Who would take me to my riding lessons? Bizarre. Sometimes I wish I could go back and visit my younger self and say, “Hey, you: your parents don’t get divorced, and you’re not adopted, so stop wasting your life worrying about it. Maybe drop some stronger hints about the pony, though…”
The house catching on fire and burning to a crisp
By now you will be totally unsurprised to learn that there was no reason for this fear that I can recall. I didn’t know anyone whose house burned down, there weren’t any burnt-out houses in our street, and while it’s conceivable that I may have seen something on TV about a burnin’, I have no recollection of that either. And yet sometimes I would force myself to stay awake until my parents had gone to bed, then creep to the top of the stairs and sit there sniffing the air like a bloodhound to make sure the house was not burning down beneath us. Strangely enough, none of my house burning fears included the fear of death, or of actually being burnt. In fact, in all of the many, many times I went through this scenario in my head, I can’t remember ever worrying about how we’d get out, or whether we would survive. Instead, the fears revolved around what the house would look like AFTER it had burned: the blackened rooms, the melted furniture, the loss of all of my possessions. I was absolutely horrified by the thought of having to go inside a house that had been on fire, and for this reason I think I MUST have at some point seen a photo or something that triggered this obsession, but hey, who knows. I remember my parents once took me to a “fire sale” when I was young and I was absolutely HORRIFIED to think they would risk all our lives in search of bargains. I also refused to touch anything, in case there was some residual spark just waiting to ignite…
These days, I don’t even think about the possibility of things going on fire, and would probably plunge into a towering inferno myself, if I thought there might be bargains to be had inside. My parents done taught me good.
Being forced to eat in someone else’s house
I’m pretty sure this was triggered by being offered food and urged to eat it while inside a house that had a funny smell. Naturally, this horrified my young self, and for a while, every time we went to someone’s house, my mother would have to repeatedly assure me that I wouldn’t have to eat anything there if I didn’t want to. What a little bitch I was, huh? Now, I will eat anywhere: phobia dismissed.
That the people in the posters on my wall were able to see me
When I was a young teenager, I was a huge Jason Donovan fan (Yeah, yeah, like you don’t have any embarrassing pop star crushes in your past…), and had one of his albums – which had a photo of him on the cover, naturally – displayed prominently in my bedroom, just under the window. And every night, before I got ready for bed, I would carefully cover Jason’s face with one of the curtains – because, if I didn’t, he would be able to see me getting undressed, wouldn’t he? And I would, like, TOTALLY DIE.
Now, I was obviously old enough at this point to, a) have a crush on Jason Donovan and, b) understand that, NO, AMBER: PHOTOS CAN’T ACTUALLY SEE YOU, FFS. I did know this – I can even remember feeling really stupid every time I covered up Jason’s little eyes with the edge of the curtain. I kept on doing it, though, JUST IN CASE.
Even more embarrassingly, I also had a bunch of posters on my wall, featuring various different pop stars and, well, members of the British showjumping team, and so deep-rooted was my fear that they, too, might be able to see me getting undressed that, every night before bed, I’d fold the bottom half of each poster up over the top half (So the people’s heads were hidden), and then Blu-tack it in place, so they couldn’t see me. Then, in the morning, I let them all back down again. And, I mean, like I say, I KNEW this was weird … I’m only just realising quite HOW weird it was, though. Kind of wish I hadn’t started this post now, tbh.
That people could secretly hear my thoughts
From time to time as a young child, I would allow myself to entertain the totally preposterous idea that everyone around me could secretly hear my thoughts – either that or I was speaking them aloud without realising it – but that they’d all been instructed (BY WHOM? WHO WAS BEHIND THIS CONSPIRACY?!) to pretend they couldn’t, no matter what happened. Because that all sounds totally legit, right?
I’m sure there were more of these, but I’m also sure that’s more than enough sharing for now.
Tell me, though: what were your kid fears?
(I also fear going somewhere and failing to be perfectly coordinated with my surroundings…)