Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Stranger Anxiety, the Meltdown

I have noticed my baby girl Kah Yen experiences center degree of stranger anxiety from about 6--month old. She will give a cautious look when a stranger or not-so-familiar friend tries to talk to her or offer to carry her. Sometimes she cries when people talk too loud in front of her. Not all the time though. She is more able to accept when people approach her with a very friendly tone and a smile (No baby rejects smiles). And also she is not afraid at kids birthday parties and playgrounds, when there are a lot toys and kids around, we can just leave her to play on her own.

So I never thought it is a big deal. And I actually think she has already outgrown this phase now that she is turning 18-month old. But last Sunday, I just witnessed one meltdown in front of a stranger.

We were at a food court for lunch. There is a big crowd so we shared a round table with 2 women, sitting right opposite us. While I was taking out her homemade lunch from the bag, she was playing with a bag of wet wipes I took out to wipe the table. Then something unexpected happened, she was trying to throw the bag of wet wipes on the table, but she used too much strength and the bag landed on one of the women's plate! The woman has already finished eating, she was talking to her friend. She was of course not offended at all by this because afterall Kah Yen is just a little baby with such an innocent look. She quickly picked up the bag and passed over to me. And kindly let me know that her plate is a bit wet so the bag might be dirty - I appreciated it and and took the bag away. I can tell you for sure that the woman was smiling throughout all these! And I did not sense anything wrong at all, I poured out Kah Yen's porridge into the bowl, and turned around to feed her. That's when I realized something was wrong! Kah Yen was still looking at the woman with a very scared face, her eyes are already red and her lips are curving down, AND, she started to cry inconsolably!

The cry is not a "I Want to be Carried" kind of whiny cry, neither it is the "I Just Fell Down My Hand Hurts" kind of screaming cry, it is a cry of fear, I can sense she was saying "You Are Scolding Me. I Did Something Wrong and You Are Scolding Me. I Am Scared of you", it is full of emotions and inconsolable.

I quickly carry her up. She immediately clung to my shoulders and buried her face on my chest. I brought her away for a few minutes, she was still sobbing. And everytime I tried to bring her back to the table so that we can have lunch, she clung to me frantically and cried. I had to wait till the 2 women left the table to bring her back, and she finally allowed me to sit her on the high chair again. So it is pretty obvious that she is afraid of the woman.

What an episode! I was a little bit disturbed by it frankly. On one hand, I looked at my baby, she is so tiny and vulnerable I am grateful I can provide a safe haven for her. On the other hand, I am worried that she will never outgrow her timidity into an indepedent, strong and brave lady.

Instead of worrying, I will just commit her into prayers. And continue to be calm and confident and reassuring in her journey of growth until she is ready to flip her own wings to reach to the sky.

I belive you can fly


  1. Hmm.. I think its not a timid thing but rather a more aware of rights and wrongs thing, which is a good sign. As in Kah Yen knows that its wrong to throw something into a stranger's plate and feels bad about it. I wish Sophia knew its wrong to spit out her food.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I was thinking along these lines too but I am not sure if baby at her age really knows right or wrong, hence I conveniently mark it under 'Stranger Anxiety". Your feedback kind of re-affirmed my thinking and yes, I am happy that she knows it is a wrong thing to do. But still I can't help thinking, isn't it a bit too much to cry like that? (Guess I should not use adult standard to measure her behavior)

      Kah Yen spits out food too esp. when I introduce her something unfamiliar. And she will have a mischievious laugh after that. It is funny and cute so I wasn't serious and firm enough. You reminded me it's time to take it seriously now.