Lately Jack has taken to looking for monsters everywhere we go. Usually it’s just a casual mention and quick search, sometimes the search is more thorough and the conversation is more urgent. It’s a little strange because he doesn’t appear to be very scared of the monsters, just concerned that they’re about. Most the time he seems to like monsters, he’s a big fan of any movie with monsters in it, has quite a few monster toys, and has more than once been heard speaking to monsters when he’s alone.
There are things that’s Jack’s afraid of, a great many things. Loud noises, mean children, big slides, Ghosts.
Ghosts are regarded similarly to monsters, however Jack always seems to dislike ghosts. He’ll occasionally mention seeing or having seen a ghost, again, usually in his room at bedtime. While he doesn’t ever pay them much mind it’s clear that there’s an element of fear when it comes to ghosts. He doesn’t even like the idea of my calling myself a big purple ghost when I’m wearing my Alton Towers Mac.
Thunderstorms are the newest. If it starts to rain Jack suddenly becomes very concerned that there’s going to be thunder.
It’s hard to gauge the emotions of a 2 year old, especially fear. Most often they don’t understand what they’re feeling nor are they articulate enough to describe it to you. A psychologist will tell you that the child will only emote as you do, so if you’re happy and excited then they are too, it’s the same with stress and fear. Knowing this, I’ve always tried to play off being scared of monsters, usually by making little stories about them any things like that. I try not to do what a lot of parents to which is play like they scare me to. Sometimes he’s plays along with me and sometimes not. There don’t seem to be any consistency regarding his feelings toward monsters, just lately they’re always on his mind.
Last night I put Jack to bed. It was a typical Tuesday night, which meant that Helen was out before Jack’s bed time. We started the bedtime routine as normal, five minute warning, then upstairs for a quick wash, a story, and then bed. The whole routine can take any where between 15 minutes to an hour, depending on temperament and toilet needs. It always takes longer when I’m on my own but only by a few minutes.
During the wash Jack started with the monster talk.
“There are monsters downstairs.” and so on. I normally try to steer the subject away from monsters around bedtime for obvious reasons. So I assured him that there were only fish downstairs, and they were in a glass cage, so presented no real threat. “But there are monsters.” he persisted. “They’re really scary.” Scary is one of the words that Jack says with an American accent.
“There’s nothing to be scared of,” I said calmly. “besides, monsters are more scared of you than you are of them.” Thank you Pixar.
I read him his story, the one about big machines, tractors, loggers and such, it distracted him for a while but as soon as we finished he started talking about the monsters again.
“The monsters is under my bed.” They often get closer to him as the day wears on. Usually they start outside somewhere, one time they started in my car.
“There are no monsters in here Jack, don’t you worry.” He didn’t believe me, he never does. So I switched his clock to night time, gave him a cuddle and said good night, leaving his light dimmed to ward away these monsters.
About twenty minutes later I heard noises upstairs that told me he was out of his room. So I crept up the stairs and found him huddled on the landing with Dylan, a plush dog that’s as big as he is.
“Jack,” I whispered, “It’s bed time.”
“But I don’t want to.” he whispered back.
“Go back to bed please.”
“But I don’t want to.”
“Because the monsters. The monsters in my room.”
I offered him a cuddle in exchange for letting me take him back to bed. He agreed but insisted that he hide from the monsters when we got there. So when I put him back in bed and pulled his quilt over his head so he could hide from the monsters. I said goodnight to a tiny face mostly hidden in a dim room and shut the door.
As I went back downstairs I found myself wondering what was on Jack’s mind. What was he thinking all alone in is room under his quilt? Was it just a plea for attention that he was no longer interested in pursuing, or was he genuinely afraid? Had I reminded him that it was bedtime and he needed to go to sleep or had I heartlessly forced him back into a room full of danger? As it happens I didn’t hear anything more from Jack last night. When I checked on him later he had moved but was still completely hidden under his quilt. The rationalist in me assumes that he went to sleep but part of me wonders if he was too scared to come out from under his quilt.