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Titillatingly Frightening

Last weekend the girls and I went to see a
ballet of Peter and the Wolf. It’s one of our favorite pieces
of music, we’ve got a story of it in one of our fairy tale
books, and we’ve even found a video version of the story at
the library, so the girls know the tale inside and out. The ballet
was only twenty minutes long, and I knew it was the perfect sort of
thing for a cultural evening out.

The night went pretty predictably: the girls were entranced, only
slightly critical of the performance itself, and Cora was scared of
the wolf. She’d seen the wolf portrayed as a cartoon, and
drawn out in the book, and knew he wasn’t real, but
c’mon – that music’s pretty ominous and scary all
by itself. As we sat in the audience before the show started, Cora
told herself over and over again, “The wolf’s not
coming out here. He’s only going on stage. The wolf’s
not coming out here. He’s only going on stage.” I could
see real nerves in the white knuckles clutching my knee, but I
could also see the excitement and anticipation coming across her
face – the excitement that draws us into those
“Don’t go into that dark creepy room!” films time
after time.

Of course, when the show started, the wolf
came out into the audience, creeping through the aisles as he made
his way onstage. Thankfully, he was contained a few rows below us,
but Cora could not take her eyes off him until he was safely stowed
on stage. Once he was in his rightful place, Cora watched the show
but buried her head in my lap every time the wolf’s music
started playing, peeping up irresistibly every few seconds. After
the show Cora wanted to meet the wolf, and she steadfastly refused
to believe that the boy without his costume head was the same as
the wolf she’d seen dancing, so she felt vaguely dissatisfied
with the resolution to her evening.

Ever since then, she’ll bring the show up absolutely out of
the blue, saying “Maddie liked the blue bird, and I liked the
wolf the best. I was scared of him, but only a little scared.
Because he was scary. But he was my favorite.”

I can see that she still replays the evening in her mind, enjoying
her little brush with terror, feeling that rush of adrenaline as
she lived “on the edge” and flirted with danger. Couple
that with her propensity for climbing and launching herself
thoughtlessly off of tall and precarious objects, and I fear
we’ve got a future X-Games gold medalist.

It’s interesting to see two girls raised in the same
environment, with such different responses – Maddie operates
well within her known boundaries but dislikes anything new or
uncertain, while Cora throws herself into the unknown (as long as
Mommy’s along for the ride) with abandon. When Maddie reviews
a scary situation verbally, she dwells on her bravery –
“I was scared but I did it anyway, and that was brave”
– while Cora dwells on the actual fearful part, almost
relishing the reliving. I know part of it’s simply where they
are developmentally, but I fear some of it’s a permanent part
of their personalities.

Sigh. Mommy’s little daredevil, coming soon to a circus near


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