I admit it: I sure had some crazy fears as a kid. (I can't tell you how many times I asked Jesus into my heart for fear he hadn't heard me or believed me the first thousand or so times.) In fact, I sure have some now. (Stockpile the house with water and baked beans and toilet paper because the bird flu may wipe us out at any time, but we'll be able to survive if we bolt the doors and ration our cans and bottles and wiping.) Many experts in the field of unreasonable psychoses say we spend more time worrying about what could be than we actually spend thinking about what is. I suspect it doesn't take a lot of research to verify this since most of us seem to walking proof this nearly universal truth (Buddhist monks and enlightened people excepted).
So Sunday was family movie night again, which always seems to lend some drama to the closing of the week. Don made tortilla pizzas (minus the cheese and plus the pesto for me, thank you very much) while I got the kids started on the movie. We snuggled up in bed and waited for Don the baker and delivery man to bring up the goods. Mommy got the privilege of picking the movie. I am not an animation fan, much as I try to be open-minded, so I am always on the search for kid-appropriate movies that have real live people in them, but will still amuse the kids and not drive me to drink.
I leafed through our large stack of accumulated DVDs and found a never-before-been-watched copy of 101 Dalmatians. Pay dirt: family friendly viewing with nary a roadrunner or sponge or bobble head in sight. And Glenn Close! After Fatal Attraction with Michael Douglas, who could doubt her acting chops? Granted, she certainly has been typecast, but what a delightfully evil Cruella Devil she was! And those dogs: how adorable where they?
Things started off smoothly: we were tucked in with the pillows plumped, the blankets tucked under our feet, happily awaiting the arrival of the pizza. I first started noticing Charlotte's whimpering about 10 minutes into the movie when Cruella whisked into the fashion magazine office in all her fur and splendor
"Is that lady real, Momma?" Charlotte asked incredulously.
"Well, she's a real person playing a pretend character," I explained.
"I don't like her one bit," she announced. "She's going to be a meanie. I can tell. I don't want her in this movie."
I paused the movie and proceeded to give a very teacherly account of how a story couldn't really be effective without a problem, and it always helped if there was an evil character to propel the problem along and make the protagonist look even better. (Yes, I did use that word and I explained it well; I am a teacher through and through.) During this discussion, Emily was bouncing on the bed barking and looking for a black sharpie pen to decorate herself with spots. Meanwhile, I assured Charlotte that good always won evil (at least in the movies) so she needn't worry.
But worry she did. In between nibbles of pizza and sips of milk, Charlotte fretted and cried and despaired for the puppies' lives. Her biggest horror came when Cruella found herself in the barn being tarred and feathered and featured in all sorts of ludicrous and funny (to the rest of us) moments. Emily pranced on the bed, spilling the chicken noodle soup (an odd combination with the pizza, but Don was the cook, not me) in all her enthusiasm and imitation of the dogs, while Charlotte hid under the covers.
For those of you who don't know, Charlotte is our older daughter (8) and the worrier who will no doubt go on to become a high-rolling lawyer or take on some career featuring high expectations and high stress, entirely of her own choosing; Emily (6) is the carefree one who spends the majority of her time pretending to be either a tiger, a lion, or, now, a dog. God help us when we go to Australia next month and get acquainted with kangaroos. Her career path will very likely involve interpretative dance or zoo keeping.
The bed got cleaned, the movie ended with good triumphing over evil and still Charlotte remained under the covers, clutching a greasy piece of forgotten pizza in her hand.
After finally cajoling her to brush and floss her teeth and to get into bed, we had a loving tuck and Don and I set about our various Sunday evening, getting-ready-for-Monday tasks. Every 10 minutes or so, however, a holler would emanate from the girl's room, Charlotte emerging (when she dared) from the covers to let us know she was scared, having bad dreams, unable to go to sleep, or that she couldn't think good thoughts and every time she tried she kept thinking of that "devil lady." (I don't blame her: every time I think of Glenn Close I think of a ringleted middle-aged women plunging a knife into a cute little bunny.)
We tried everything: I put a lavender sachet from my underwear drawer under her pillow and told her the aroma could whisk away the bad thinking. I even brought her a pair of forgotten purple furry socks and blew them full of magic dust straight from my magic lungs to take away her fears and help her to think good thoughts; We talked about all the good in the universe and how good is stronger than evil and how that Cruella woman was the archetype for evil in the world (okay, not really).
When the tired parents trundled to bed well after midnight there were still a few more frenzied visits to the bedroom, and when we woke up in the morning, there was a little gal bundled up on the Afghan rug beside our bed.
Try as we might to protect our children from their fears, like us, they just need to go through them. I'm realizing more and more that it's my job to shepherd these lovely gals through their trials and tribulations (even if it means staying up until unreasonable hours and bringing out random underwear drawer items), but to still let them go through them. It appears there is no avoiding it anyway. We just can't predict what is going to scare the bejeezus out of our children so we just have to hang out with them and keep letting them know that one way or another good triumphs over evil and try to believe it ourselves.
to not judge people based on their fears, reasonable or not.
to let my children feel their fears, as odd as they may seem, but to hold their hands until they come through them. And if need be, hold their hands forever.
to find the purple furry socks that went missing since Charlotte flew into a panic tonight when she couldn't find what she is now reverently calling "the magic slippers."
to remember I have my own unreasonable fears and to see if putting socks on my hands will help me to deal with them (at least in the privacy of my own home; I won't do it at work or anything).
to consider switching the Sunday night movie tradition to Saturday so we can at least sleep in on Sunday and wake up rested on those Monday mornings that come upon us so fast and furious.