The Go-lilla Kicked Da Gwass!

As I reflect on Dylan’s new job – that of “scarer” at the Halloween-themed Field of Screams – I can’t help but think about his interesting method for combating fear.

As someone who is utterly consumed by fear much of the time, I find Dylan’s response to be amazing.

I first noticed it when he was just a toddler – maybe three years old. One summer day, my parents took Dylan to the zoo, where he gleefully raced up to the gorilla enclosure. Indoors, the enclosure is entirely made of glass, and the gorilla was sitting up against the glass, so Dylan was able to stand right next to the giant, furry creature.

Quite suddenly, though, the 400-pound animal stood up and kicked its foot against the glass, right where Dylan stood, sending a terrified toddler running back to his grandparents with panic in his eyes. In addition to the sheer startle effect, little Dylan had no idea why such a darling furr-ball would do such a thing.

(This tempts me to write a lengthy expose on caging wild animals for our enjoyment … but I won’t.)

When Dylan got home, he wanted to tell me what had happened. He was breathless, with wide toddler eyes.

Still struggling with his R’s and L’s he said, “The go-lilla kicked da gwass!” His voice got very high on the word “kicked,” and he demonstrated with his little foot what that gorilla did.

Over the next few days, he repeated that phrase two dozen times, often out-of-the-blue. “The go-lilla kicked da gwass!” he would say, during his bath, over dinner, while running in the yard.

At our next visit to the library, Dylan asked if there were any books about gorillas. We’d read “Goodnight, Gorilla,” by Peggy Rathmann a hundred times. But he wanted non-fiction, too, so he could study the photos of real, live gorillas.

In September, he brought home a Scholastic book from his school book fair – about gorillas. And by October, for Halloween, he only wanted to be one thing for Halloween.

He went trick-or-treating as a gorilla.

Dylan took the fear that could have defeated him as a toddler and examined it – studied what he feared, got to know it, explored it in as much depth as any tiny person could possibly do. Instead of internalizing the fear and carrying it with him – becoming afraid of loud noises, or of animals, or of zoos perhaps – he chose to think about it and determine whether or not it should defeat him.

He decided, after much ado, that it should not.

And so, after maybe six months, Dylan went on his way, unafraid of gorillas. I’ve seen him repeat the pattern many times over, since he was three. And now he is working backstage at a place that is purposefully frightening – a place that has intrigued and alarmed him for many years.

He’s tackling it head-on. And he’s loving it.

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