My son Apollo is a mega boy and fears little, but what he does fear he does so with gusto. He is 5 years old and doesn’t fear the street, backtalking us, arguing with his brother and sister and climbs trees with abandon. The fireworks we hear in our neighborhood scare him a little, but for most things he’s perfectly unaware of any danger. When we were in Las Vegas and Southern Utah he had no fear of the cactus.
Get him around ferns, however, and he is paralyzed.
The picture that goes with this post is from our Thursday trip to the former Elwha Dam, which was blasted to turn back into a river, restoring historic salmon runs. The trail runs about a half mile from the parking lot, the last half through a pretty thick forest filled with ferns.
We began walking through that part and Apollo began complaining loudly. I pushed him through one section that was lined with ferns, though none came close to touching them, and he yelled like he was being tortured.
He spent the rest of the walk, as you can see from the grainy picture, riding on the back of my wife. That didn’t stop him from complaining.
This happened once before, probably when he was 3. We were hiking a trail in South Kitsap and were almost done with it when he spotted ferns close to his walking path. I ended up carrying him but he continued to wail so loudly that other hikers who could hear us, but not see us, asked if everything was OK. We told the truth, that our son is afraid of ferns.
We are not quite sure where he got it. We have always suspected he was fed that fear from his older brother, Sascha, but Sascha denies it. I seem to remember some teasing about it when Apollo was 2 or so, but I can’t be certain where it started.
When we were done with the Elwha part of our adventure on Thursday I asked Apollo what I would have to give him to take a fern, pick it up and play with it. Sascha offered him a Rubik’s Cube. Apollo was having none of it. Later that day he willingly climbed higher peaks at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. We passed deer that were unafraid of humans, snow packs and went up trails that were a bit steep off to the sides. None of those things bothered Apollo in the least.
Nowhere could I find a way to cure Apollo of his phobia. In my head I’m thinking the promise of a good root beer might do it. That’s what got him eager to hike so much on Thursday. Years back I saw a guy help a woman with her fear of spiders by encouraging her to let one walk all over her hand. I can’t see that working for me with snakes. And if I pinned Apollo down and rubbed ferns all over him I don’t know if it would cure him or make him hate me forever.
Maybe I’ll just encourage him to live somewhere other than the Pacific Northwest when he’s older.