Hannah is not one to be afraid of things. Where most of her friends found scenes from all of her favorite movies scary, and watched them through slightly parted fingers, she did not. The first time she saw Nemo, she didn’t flinch at the scary sharks. She thought they were funny. The tremendous growing Octopus Witch in The Little Mermaid was surprising but also not scary. In all of the movies she’s seen where someone has died, she doesn’t get sad or worried, just curious as to where they went. I don’t worry at Fireworks displays that she’ll be scared of the loud explosions or at the Circus that the clowns will petrify her.
For an extremely dramatic five year old who gets bent out of shape from just about anything… she has a high threshold for fear. Except for bees. Because mommy sets a bad example and is paralyzed with fear when one appears. And pretty much yells for everyone to run for cover when one buzzes by… so that doesn’t count. I’ve sometimes wondered what it says about her that so many normal fears of kids her age don’t apply to her. I decided that she just understands the difference between real and fictional and separates what she sees in movies and in books from that that exists in front of her.
So tonight, when she whispered to me as we lay in bed after her goodnight story that she has been thinking a lot about monsters in her room, all of a sudden wanting her closet door closed and her bedroom door open wider to allow more light to pour in, I pondered how to handle it. I knew that if I simply told her that Monsters aren’t real, that there isn’t anything to be afraid of because there’s no such thing, I knew she’d say, “How do YOU know?”. And really, how DO I know? For all I know, they only come out when I’m asleep. Maybe they only bother those who bother them (like bees, so I’ve heard). Maybe they turn themselves invisible when someone gets close. How DO I know?
So I decided to try a different strategy instead of blowing Monsters off as fictional characters. I took a deep breath, hoped I wasn’t about to make an insanely horrible mommy decision, and told her how EXCITED I’d be if in fact I ever got to meet one of those monsters that may live in our rooms. I told her that I BET monsters just get lonely and come out to find people known for giving fabulous, warm, loving hugs. I explained that very few people actually know that Monsters are VERY choosy about whose room they visit because they only are interested in seeing people that they hear have strong hugging arms. I went on to say (I was on a roll now) that monsters are so big because they’re incredible cuddlers. That they have lots of hair because they love to be petted. That they have big teeth because “I hear” their favorite food are nuts and their teeth help them open the hard shells.
She looked at me like I was NUTS.
“Would you really be happy mommy if a monster was in your room?”
“Yup!” I had to keep this up. “I’d be honored”.
I could tell she was processing all of this new information of which she was obviously skeptical. And then she lay back down on her pillow. Satisified. For the moment.
I gave her a kiss and whispered in her ear, “Good night. I hope you see a monster tonight. Give it a hug from me, if you do.” She smiled.
And I left her room. Still wondering if this was the wrong way to go on this. She seemed satisfied but I know her, and chances are in the morning, she’ll have a whole new line of questions for me on this. I’m certain she’ll have bore a hole through my story, finding a reason why it CAN’T be true.
But as I cleaned up the mess of toys in the family room and did the dishes from dinner tonight, I realized that what I told her wasn’t all wrong. We all DO have the monsters in our lives. The ones we fear and the ones we need to take head on. All of our monsters approach us for a reason. To teach us we can handle them. That we’re stronger than we think. They help us set our priorities and our goals.
When my monster shows its big hairy face I look right back at it and tell it I’m stronger than it is. It reminds me of all I’ve achieved and how far I’ve come since I first met it years ago. My monster is now my friend. My monster makes me look at Tim and my kids and and remember that they are more important than anything else I may face. My monster now pats me on the back and gives me a thumbs up.
Monsters are real. They very well may be hiding out in our closets, under our beds, in our cupboards or right out in the open for all to see. I think we’re all better off if we believe in them. And grab their big hairy, horny (like With Horns) bodies and hold them close instead of just pushing them away.
I hear they like that.
So what do you think? Would you have ever told your child what I did about monsters?