Tot vs Monster Under The Bed!
October 20, 2016
We begin unraveling this week’s twisted tale of triumphant toterrific terror in revisiting some fond childhood memories. Though likely the “fond” part didn’t come into play until long after childhood was just memory.
You stand in the doorway; hand poised on the light switch. You’re starting to sweat in your footie jammies. Perhaps you should have gone with the Underoos, you’d feel braver dressed like a hero. But that’s too much exposed flesh and it’s too late to change now. Now it’s go time as in- “go to bed” time. And there’s your bed just across the room. Your island sanctuary, anchored in a sea of irrational pre-pubescent fear. On it sits the ever vigilant sentry, your sole protector against the night. Teddy Bears — “Protecting children from monsters under the bed since 1902.” He signals the all clear. That it’s safe…at least over there on the bed. It’s less than ten feet away. It might as well be ten miles.
A deep breath and it’s time to race the light. On your mark! - leaning as far into the room as possible. Get set! - digging in with those plasticity footie-jammie footie pad thingies. And…GO! Flicking the switch you simultaneously break into a run for your life. You have to get up enough speed to execute the jump with perfectly timed precision. Too soon and you’ll slide right under. Too late and you’ll be snagged before your feet leave the floor. A million years go by in a millisecond as you desperately lunge into the darkness. There’s a groan you know you heard, when you just know you felt something grab at your leg as you soared over. Then there’s the welcoming smile of a stuffed friend, the warm embrace of the comforter and you know you’ll live to see another day.
Why are there monsters under the beds? Are they friends with the ones in the closets? Why do they want to get us? Where did they come from? In most cases these “monsters” are spawned by adults as a behavior deterrent for disobedient children. When other forms of discipline have failed, they resort to threatening the child with monsters. Telling them that if they don’t behave some horror is going to come and “get them.” This plants a seed which can serve purpose, wither and die or sprout a garden of terror in a child’s mind. Such was the case a year ago when my grandson Gabriel, a.k.a. Tot, suddenly began expressing an unprecedented fear of the dark and the monsters that lie within.
To this day the gardener remains unknown, but they planted their seeds of fear deep and for a time scary monsters were everywhere for the Tot. Grammie’s (that’s be the wife, a.k.a. Lil Red) solution was love and reassurance that there was no such thing as monsters. My approach was a little more direct. Armed with lighted toy guns, toy chainsaws and flashlights, the Tot and I went on “monster hunts.” If he pointed his light to a dark corner and said, “MONSTER” we attacked with battery powered, plastic fury. Initially he was wary of the whole idea but after a time we took turns shooting, sawing and even grappling with his imagination. Monsters were no longer something to be feared, they had become a fun game. And then I took it one step too far.
We had just finished a hunt. He had gone to his bedroom to play and I to mine to fold some laundry. That’s when I get this brilliant idea that maybe if he could save me from a monster, be the hero and then see that it was all just pretend…hmmm. Without really thinking it through I quickly slid my legs under the bed and cried out. His response time was instant and the look on his face made me regret the whole thing—it was a primal look of fear. But here’s the thing, he wasn’t afraid for himself, he wasn’t afraid of the “monster,” he was afraid for me. Before I could move, before I could assure him it was just pretend, he raced forward and took my outstretched hand into his two little ones and pulled with all his might. When I sat up he double-checked to make sure my legs were all the way out. Once he was sure I was “free” he hugged me tight and told me everything would be OK.
And amazingly it was. We got down so he could see there wasn’t anything under the bed and that it was just pretend. Then I hugged him and told him that pretend or not, he was very brave. That he was my hero and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.
He smiled and I knew we wouldn’t need to go hunting again anytime soon.
Next week: Well, ahem, nothing damned near as sweet and sappy as this!
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