on Heresy, Demons and Angels

Kids are scared. I was a scared kid. We don’t like to admit it but yeah most of us were. Sometimes it’s the dark, or monsters. Sometimes it’s the irrational fear of a hand springing out from the floor to grab your foot, especially when you’re on the loo.

I should never have watched IT.

On the whole I’m lucky to have a four year old and an eight year old that both succumb to sleep with relative ease. These days. On most nights. When it’s not storming. . . and Jupiter and Saturn are aligned with Orion. . . in the Year of The Rat.

For a short period recently, every night at bedtime I became a heretical Shaman. Youngest believed that monsters were kept at bay not by the fact of their nonexistence, but rather by the silly incantations daddy made when he placed magic on her door, with a flourish and seriousness any orchestra conductor would envy. She now believes that the cats protect her. Izzy is a skittish little Siamese-cross and Kiki is a fat and grumpy Calico. How wondrous an imagination, that turns Kiki from an ill-tempered furry rugby ball with legs into a noble beast of virtue that protects the innocent. But if it works, it works.

Eldest is afraid of being alone, to the extent where simply being in another room in the house is terrifying. If she’s asked to fetch, say, a cellphone from upstairs, she’s back at my side faster than the Flash and vehemently testifying that the phone couldn’t be found after a comprehensive search. Once again Kiki, Protector of the Realm, is called to action and the somewhat ungainly excuse for a cat is lugged around the house, usually confused and not enjoying the attention. ┬áSleep time for eldest was scary once upon a time, and a light always had to be left on somewhere in the house. I don’t think that she still believes in the Guardian Angel I convinced her was always watching over her, but it worked at the time.

As I’m sure all parents do, we try to shield our children. We look down the road and pre-empt the things that may evolve into nightmares. We can’t get it right all the time. For example the lady antagonist in Madagascar 3 prompted a three hour crying session for Youngest which caught me completely off-guard. Later that night and many nights to follow the “naughty woman” haunted the psyche of my little one. The Never Ending Story is now a horror film in my view, fraught with monsters, heartbreak and white fluffy flying canine-esque demons.

At the end of the day we need to teach them about the world. I think it’s healthy to experience the suspense of adventure, the fear of danger and the joy of overcoming the baddies in the end. We live in a different world from the one as recent as that of our youth, and we cannot apply the same boundaries that were placed upon our childhoods. Essentially the ones with the most fear are us, the parents, and finding the line between being neurotic and being careless means the difference between a sheltered or well-adjusted child. It’s difficult not to get impatient, especially when their fears affect their basic functioning. The key is probably to encourage, not criticise them.