It has emerged in the last week, that my daughter has a pathological fear of big people. No, I don’t mean overweight or those who are particularly tall – I mean the people who dress up in outfits – life-size cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse or Spongebob Squarepants!
Last week when we were at the exhibition centre, three such characters appeared – Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants and some jellyfish that I’m not familiar with. Oliver was terribly excited and shook their hands and tentacles, but when I looked around for Ella, she had vanished. We looked everywhere that we could think of and I was starting to panic. Dubai is pretty safe when it comes to child safety and there are relatively few weird people here, but nonetheless, it only takes one person . . . . .
About five minutes later, when the panic was clearly in my throat, I heard this distraught screaming and crying – my daughter was being carried towards me by a lady – the closer Ella got to me, the more she screamed and tried to get away. It must have looked pretty strange to the lady trying to return her to her mother. I grabbed Ella who was practically hysterical by this point – “get me out of here”, “get me out of here” she kept screaming, tears streaming down her face with a look of blind panic on her face. She tried to run to the outside door.
It was then that we realized what the problem was – behind me was a full-size grown up version of Spongebob who was getting closer and closer to Ella. She was utterly terrified.
We moved as far away as we could and sat her down on the floor trying to calm her down – she eventually stopped trembling, but her eyes were constantly scanning the exhibition centre searching for these characters. The strange thing is that she really wants to see these people and talks about them non-stop . . . that is, until the moment they appear and then she runs away, as fast as her little legs will carry her.
I know where this all started and I really thought that now she is 4, the problem would have gone away. When Ella was 2, we visited Disneyland – we were sitting in a restaurant and Ella had her back to the inner part of the room. Without warning, a lifesize Baloo (of Jungle Book fame) came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. She literally jumped out of the chair and you could physically see the panic in her eyes. For the remainder of the Disneyland experience, she stayed as far away as she could possibly be from any of the large characters, although after about 3 days she started to tentatively wave to them – albeit from a safe distance of about 10 metres. Even in this photo of us with Goofy, she wouldn't open her eyes and remained rigid in Tim's arms
She is adamant that she still wants to go to Disneyland next year – despite us telling her that there will be lots of big characters there . . . now that she is bigger, she can run faster and further away. We have tried to explain that she mustn’t run away or she will be lost, but when the faced with her fears, any rational ability she may have, will understandably desert her and she will just run.
Whoever thought that a trip to Disneyland would scar a child for life!