Monday, August 14, 2006

Monsters. And the having of them.

So what do you do if your baby is afraid of "monsters"?

A couple of times recently, offspring has called me up to her room, saying she's frightened the monster will get her.

me: what monster?
her: the one behind my tent
me:where?
her: behind my tent
me:show me
her: i can't
me: why?
her: the monster will get me
me: let me pick you up and we'll have a look together

so i carry her round the back of her tent (little canvass thing where she keeps her soft toys) to show her there's no monster. She says she could hear it. I suggest that maybe it's people on the stairs next door she can hear (ye olde terraced house). She seems satisfied with this at the time, but its happened a few times in last couple of weeks. There used to be a bucket of toys in the corner, but I moved it so no "monster" would be able to skulk behind it.

[i tried quite hard to post pic of offending corner here, but bloggers having non of it this afternoon] (perhaps it knows i'm supposed to be working . . . .)

Sometimes she's obviously playing pretend, like if we're walking along the street and says "better hurry up mummy, monster coming", in which case i usually stop, turn around and ask "monster" if he'd like to come back to our house for tea/come with us to park/to shops/whatever. This usually quashes any interest she has in persuasion the topic.

Of course I don't want to discourage imaginative games, but I also don't want to encourage her to spook herself out.

I absolutely will not tell her she begin "silly." It makes me angry when i hear parent say that to their children, and its amazing how often its used. The English language is a biggish sort of place - there's no call for "silly." If she's scared by something, real or imaginary, she's not silly, she's scared. If a child's upset, they're not silly, they're upset. Its such an undermining thing to say.

When I was little, and upset by something (usually something i didn't understand), i was always told i was being silly. Years and years of that contribute to the understanding that your feelings are not important. That they are not to be taken seriously and should not be considered.

I'm not immune to it, I catch myself almost saying it. Like this morning, she ran down the hall to the kitchen saying, "there's a man coming, quick, hide". Now where does she get the notion she has to be afraid of "a man"? She's not three years old. I asked

which man?
one out there (pointing to front door)
where?
out there, mummy
Why is he coming?
because he is

at which point I picked her up and took her to the front door, opened it, and we both went outside.

I didn't want to talk about it with her too much, didn't want to make a big deal and somehow reinforce the idea that she needs to be afraid. But it's a fine line -dismissal vs the investigation lending weight to the validation of her monster's existence.

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