Little M is one of the most cheerful people I know. She is sometimes serious and somber, sometimes she pouts or throws tantrums, like any three year old does. But her times of cheeriness far outweigh her those serious times. She is just a happy girl.
And sometimes, we take that happiness at face value, and make assumptions. We assume that because she is smiling, or giggling, or giddy with excitement, she must be this happy and unaffected by things, on the inside as well.
In situations where she is unsure or nervous she is giddy, and appears excited and happy. For example, when there are animals around…little M starts dancing around, smiling and laughing and saying “hi doggy, hi doggy,” in a very high-pitched voice.
She will ask to be picked up, but she appears happy and giddy. The only way you would know something is not right is to put your hand over her little chest. Then you would feel that she is tense and her heart is racing. People naturally assume that little M is overjoyed to see their dog when we are at the park, and they bring their dog closer so that the little excited girl can see the doggy up close, hopefully sending her into paroxysms of utter joy.
What happens are not paroxysms of utter joy. Little M goes from an appearance of giddy, excited happiness to tears and panic. She talks about being scared for days afterward, but no one would have ever guessed she was scared. She has only ever been ok with one dog, and I am not sure what made this dog safe for her, but she talks about “doggy Jack” often, and he appears to be the one dog that is ok for her on this planet.
It is not just animals that are “exciting” for her. New people, and new situations, can be overstimulating and overwhelming to anyone, but to look at little M’s beaming countenance, you would think she just met a new best friend…until you feel her racing heart, and realize that this smile is not real.
I’m not sure if this a coping mechanism, or if her fight or flight response isshut down, or if this is even a normal thing to have happen.
How do I teach her to have a “normal” reaction when she is afraid. How can I show her that she can turn to us, and tell us that she doesn’t like something? I would love to get everyone’s take on this, and hear what other more experienced mom’s would do!