Our daughter has an aversion clowns and mascots. “I don’t like pretend people,” she’ll tell you, but her feelings are really more intense than mere dislike. She’s terrified of them, and for that reason, I hate these costumed staples of local fun.
Nothing can make her want to leave a place faster than the sight of a mascot. The SeaWolf, all the ones we see at the Zoo, the cow at Chik-Fil-A, Chuck E. Cheese…she views all of these friendly-looking creatures as threatening and scary. And clowns? She will cry just looking at one.
This all has me quite worried. Her fear was easier to understand when she was two. She’s six, and it just doesn’t seem rational now that she knows that the SeaWolf is really a kid named Eric.
I heard on the radio a while ago that a children’s hospital in the UK did a survey of its young patients to determine what would cheer them up while they were in treatment. Every child who took the survey – EVERY child – said that clowns were scary. I work very closely with research on a weekly basis, so I understand the significance of a 100% response. Honestly though, other children seem to enjoy these dressed-up people. I see kids of all ages lining up to high-five SeaWolf, get tickets from Chuck E. Cheese, or have their pictures taken with other random mascots. I even see kids clamoring for clowns at local events. I wonder why our child isn’t one of the kids who seem to be entertained by these well-meaning folks.
At the same time, I question the wisdom of trying to make her comfortable in the presence of mascots. I don’t think an instinct to be wary of strangers is such a bad thing. Why spend so much effort pushing her toward blind trust of disguised strangers?
I counter my own worry with the knowledge that this won’t last forever. She will grow out of this phase eventually.
Although, I do know quite a few adults who are afraid of clowns.