Remember when you were scared of monsters? Right before going to bed each night, you would open your bedroom closet as quickly as possible to try to scare the monster before he could scare you…or you would lay in bed petrified, sure that a long, slimy arm would reach up from underneath and grab you! I remember feeling that way, especially since I still do! It’s true, I’m in my thirties and I’m scared of monsters. If a grown adult is afraid of the dark and all that hides within it, imagine how terrifying it must be for kids. I witness it daily. My three-year-old daughter is also scared to death of monsters.
I wonder why? All the latest kid’s shows are kind enough to create plush, lovable, silly monsters for the kids to enjoy and perhaps, befriend. This is the only exposure my child has had to the concept of a ‘monster’ so I’m unsure of when this phobia crept up on her. Excuse the pun. She did go through a period when she was scared of everything…doctors, dinosaurs, loud noises, my husband’s taste in dissident techno music, sharks even. But most of those fears faded and monsters came out on top. Now every night before we go to sleep she sheepishly asks, her sleepy cherubic face illuminated by the compulsory night light, ‘are the monsters coming?’ I’ve heard this question so many times I answer with a firm ‘nO!’ before she can even finish her sentence. It seems to be enough to reassure her and off to slumberland she goes.
That is until she wakes up at 3 AM from a nightmare about what else but our frightening furry friends. I’ve also become so accustomed to this nightly routine that I don’t think I even fully wake up as I try to comfort my trembling child back to sleep. I know it’s a phase she’ll outgrow, but man, can a Mommy get some sleep around here? What’s crazy is that the following morning, she never remembers the nightmare or the consequent waking up from the nightmare. I learned my lesson after the first few times of asking her that it’s a topic best unmentioned. As soon as I bring up her ‘scary dream’ the wheels start to turn in her over-imaginative little head and she becomes paranoid for the remainder of the day. Then bedtime becomes MY nightmare.
I often wonder what the best way to remedy this phase is. Claw my way through it? Distract her with some silly fanciful fairy tale about princesses? Maybe I should take her to the doctor to discuss. Oh wait, she’s scared of doctors too. That’s a whole other story, but let’s just say it has something to do with a small, plastic bead having to be extracted from a certain mischievous pre-schooler’s ear by a team of intimidating medical personnel. Yeah, that was a fun three hours. At least ‘are the monsters coming?’ was replaced by ‘Is there a bead in my ear?’ or ‘do I have to go to the hospital?’ for a few weeks afterwards.
I just hope these fears are not becoming permanently ingrained into her psyche. Seems that they were in mine, but for good reason. My parents let me watch horror movies! Can you believe that? I’m talking about the really scary stuff about paranormal spirits that lived in the television or Halloween masks that became permanently attached to the wearer’s face. What were they thinking? Once the movie would end they’d nonchalantly send my brothers and me off to bed for a grim night full of scary dreams. Thanks Mom and Dad. What’s worse is they were the no-nonsense type of parents who didn’t want to hear from you between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM unless you were throwing up. Then they’d just hand you a bottle of stomach medicine and a trash can to keep next to your bed and off to sleep they’d go again. It’s amazing I survived my childhood at all!
That said, I’m still baffled about my daughter’s anxieties. For one thing, no scary movies, TV shows, books, or even commercials are allowed in my house (that’s for her sake of course, not mine). Secondly, we co-sleep. There she is laying right next to me, night light on, and she’s still scared! If Mommy and the light don’t comfort her, what would? This kid must have one wild imagination to still be afraid after all that. Perhaps the problem is that I look like a monster at 3 AM with no make up on, hair all disheveled and crazy from my flannel pillowcase. Hmmm…mental note: try to look better (or at least less-frightening) for sleep from now on.
The funniest part of all of this, if I was forced to find one, is what my daughter is NOT afraid of. Spiders. Spiders just so happen to send me shrieking like a banshee and running in the opposite direction. Sane people kill spiders with a paper towel. I get out the vacuum cleaner and put every attachment I can on the hose to make it as long as possible to suck that thing up. My daughter tries to make spiders her pets! Also, she has no fear of personal injury. Neither my husband nor I are strong enough to push her as high as she would like to go on the swings. Something else? Gigantic dogs that could make a meal of her. There is a family in our neighborhood with not one, but two Great Danes that are the size of small horses, and my daughter runs right up and pets them like they were tiny, furry kittens. I, of course, keep my distance.
A friend once said to me that as soon as your child outgrows one annoying habit they immediately start to display a new one. I guess I can hang on to that for hope. I wouldn’t say her fear of monsters is annoying, I actually feel sorry for her, but it does seem awfully irrational. At least that’s what I tell myself every night when I’m cowering under my covers in the dark.