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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Shark?

July 19, 2010 - Betsy Bethel

Well, we made it to the beach and back, and the only sharks we saw were behind a foot of plexiglass at Ripley's Aquarium. Phew.

Emma's previously pronounced fear of sharks, jellyfish and orcas disintegrated into the hazy and humid air the second she spotted the Atlantic Ocean. Our 4-year-old couldn't wait to get her feet wet. She soon developed a healthy fear of those nameless, toothless, relentless ocean inhabitants -- the waves. Since she doesn't swim yet, that was a plus.

I had fears to tackle at the beach, too. I feared we all would get sunburned, the beach would be crowded with up-to-no-good teens, and Emma might get separated from us, with or without the help of an evil stranger. But those healthy fears led to healthy behaviors. Slathering on SPF 50 every hour became a ritual, and Emma was never out of Dave's or my sight for an instant. As for the teens, the ones we encountered were vacationing with their families and everyone treated everyone like family. I would highly recommend Cherry Grove Beach (part of North Myrtle) to any family for that reason.

Trading an unhealthy fear for a healthy one, that's a good thing. We didn't have to go to Myrtle Beach to learn that lesson, however. The good folks over at Wheeling Hospital's Safety Town have helped thousands of children do just that over the years. During the two-week sessions that run two hours a day, 4- and 5-year-olds learn basic safety rules presented to them in fun ways with songs and games by enthusiastic trained teen instructors and Wheeling Police personnel.

The goal is not to make the kids petrified but to engage and inform them about safety aspects from bikes and skates, to crossing the street, to fires and strangers, to the dangers of strange dogs, medicine and Dad's lawnmower.

Emma missed the first week of this session when we were at the beach. When I told her this morning where she would be going this week, she said, "But Mooo-oooom, I already KNOW about safety!" You know a lot, I told her, but I said I bet she learns even more at Safety Town.

I just dropped her off for the beginning of the second week a few minutes ago, and her instructor as well as program director called her by name immediately and welcomed her with open arms. Happy faces all around. I can't wait to find out what new healthy fear she developed today!


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Blog Photos

Emma Skye faces her fears