Putting on a Brave Front

It’s Halloween, but I won’t be doing anything scary today. I don’t like scary movies or scary books or the dark or snakes – especially snakes. The way they slither around is just not natural. When something is just a little scary, it sticks with me. I can’t watch certain TV shows right before I go to sleep, and frightening images stay with me for years. Often, the material doesn’t even have to be all that scary to freak me right out. The 1987 movie The Lost Boys, for instance, which Wikipedia describes as an “American teen comedy horror film” can still give me nightmares almost 25 years later.

Because I am really a huge wimp, there are a lot of things I avoid for my own good. I have never read a Stephen King novel, and I probably never will. I haven’t seen many iconic films that nearly all of my contemporaries have, including Silence of the Lambs, The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist. I made the mistake of going to see the movie Seven with my friend, who had told me only that it starred Brad Pitt. I was expecting something more along the lines of A River Runs Through It. Instead I was up with nightmares for weeks.

Spooky!

When I was a teenager, I decided that if I hid under the covers the scary things that surely lurked there in the night couldn’t get me. I started pulling my comforter up over my head as I slept for this reason, leaving only a small gap near the top so that air could circulate. When I was in my early 20s and living by myself, it also drowned out the normal sounds from other apartments, that would keep me awake if I let them. I somehow felt more secure, when my head wasn’t exposed as I slept. I realize, of course, that the very idea that an actual monster or intruder would somehow be stopped by a blanket makes no sense, but we all sometimes do things that make no sense.

Now I’m a parent, though. I gave up pulling my blanket over my head on the night that my daughter Hannah came home from the hospital. I needed to be able to hear her every wiggle and peep, so I learned how to sleep with my head exposed to the dangers of the night. I also learned how to walk around my house in the dark without freaking out, because turning on lights when you’re trying to get babies to sleep is counter-productive. In the end, my sleep deprivation and new mama instincts won out over my fear of the dark. I couldn’t afford the indulgence of irrational fear in the face of the practical realities of child-rearing.

Now Hannah is six and a half and her brother Jacob is three, and I have to put on a brave front for them pretty much every day. I can’t let them see that I’m terrified of snakes or afraid of the dark, because I don’t want to transfer those fears to them. When they wake up crying and telling me they’re afraid of something, I can’t say, “You’re right, ghosts are scary, let’s cover our heads and hope they don’t see us!” I have to be the grown-up and communicate an aura of calm, even if I’m completely terrified on the inside.

Pumpkin family

Tonight, when the teenagers are out setting off their firecrackers and Jacob is crying about how he’s scared, I’ll put on my brave face and comfort him. When masked children come to our door and Hannah tells me she doesn’t like the scary ones, I’ll tell her she has nothing to fear. And when my house creaks as it cools down for the night while I try to fall asleep, I’ll resist the urge to hide under my down duvet. It may be Halloween, but I’m still the mama, and it’s my job to make little people feel safe – not convince them their irrational fears are justified.

What are your irrational fears? How do you put on a brave face for your own kids? I’d love to hear all about it. And, of course, I hope that you have a very happy Halloween!

PS – Every month I do a monthly review of things I learned. Some are serious, some are funny, and all are hard-won. I will be running my October review on Wednesday, November 2. I’d love it if you played along. Write a post on or before October 2 and come back here to include it in my link-up!

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Comments

  1. I, too, am a recovering blanket-over-the-head sleeper, and I almost cried laughing while reading this. I don’t know that I’ve read something to which I relate so fully in a long time 🙂 In addition to the dark, and sleeping with my head uncovered, I hate washing my face at night because, seriously, there’s no way I could hear or see the monsters coming with all that running water drowning out the noises around me, and the soap causing me to keep my eyes shut. It’s just terrible!

    Good luck tonight!
    Melissa’s last post … The Toddler Pumpkin ExtravaganzaMy Profile

  2. I hated Seven. HATED. It was absolutely horrific. I walked out of the Blair Witch Project. That being said, Stephen King is one of my all-time favorite authors. But…there’s something about using your imagination to create demons, instead of being force-fed horror on the big screen. You can always close a book.

    I have to put on my brave face all the time with my kids. I can’t be afraid of the dark. I can’t talk about needing to keep my blankets tucked in or my closet shut at night before I can fall asleep.

    But man, I just want to keep them away from all the Freddie Krugers and Jasons… like, forever.
    I haven’t even shown them the Wizard of Oz yet. I figure there’s plenty of time.
    And plenty of real-life awful.

    Letting them just be… kids for now.
    (this reminds me that I need to hide my Stephen King collection from my avid reader who regularly steals my books)

  3. I’m afraid of birds and going mad.

    Well, I guess going mad is a fairly rational fear.
    Betsy’s last post … 16 Year Old Casserole: TFTCB Part IIIMy Profile

  4. I loved ghost stories as a child and watched all the scary movies I could. But, of course, I scared myself silly and for years thought of werewolves when a full moon appeared. Over the years, I became more nervous of the dark, and wouldn’t think of going out by myself or into isolated areas.

    Now I live in the middle of a very dark forest with towering trees, down a long dirt road, somewhat removed from my neighbours, on the edge of a lake. When I spend the night here without my husband (which isn’t as often as it used to be) I close all of the blinds and tuck myself into bed early with a book. I amaze my friends who tell me they couldn’t live here year round or spend any time alone.

    In the winter mornings I take my dogs down the road in the pitch dark with a flashlight to see my way.There have been times when the dogs barked in the middle of the night and I’ve had to go out and investigate, with my heart pounding. Usually it’s a deer or critter that alarms the dogs, but, who knows what lurks out there?

    I cannot watch scary TV or movies or read about spooky things. (Have you noticed that the Bad Things all come out of the dark forests? ) But I have somehow found the courage to deal with my fears. Probably the worst time was when a bat got into the house, back when this place was still a summer cabin. Getting rid of it with a towel on my head, waving a broom and screaming must have been more terrifying for the bat than it was for me!

    Now that I’ve learned to live with the dark and what lurks there, one fear remains and that is of falling when I’m alone, with no one within earshot to help me if I’m hurt. I visualize lying in the cold and dark, dying of hypothermia, snow falling slowly over me, burying me. (Ah, the perils of a vivid imagination.) Therefore, I try to remember to carry my cell phone in my pocket, even with a sleeping husband just down the road. This is a very real danger but, with a little forethought, is one I can deal with. I guess it applies to anyone hiking as well.

    I’ll leave you with this: a friend of mine once said that the only thing you can’t rationalize away when lying in bed, straining to listen, is ….a clink…….. Happy Hallowe’en!

  5. When I was a kid, I used to include my ear being covered with a blanket for the fear of someone biting my ear off. I always check my feet and see if someone was there to grab them. I have a wild imagination and I avoid watching horror movies as well.
    laura’s last post … how to get a girl to like youMy Profile

  6. My husband works a lot of night shifts. For years I could only sleep on the couch in sight of the front door – preferably with the TV blaring and some lights on. Now I have a family bed and because we sleep with a baby, I have to keep the lights out and the door closed tight to keep out the cats. It takes me a moment each night to screw up the courage to shut the door. I guess deep down, we’re all a bit chicken lol.
    Tamara’s last post … By the Way, Your Furnace is Leaking Gas. Again.My Profile

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  1. […] you afraid of the dark? I’ll come clean and admit that I am. Before I had children I used to sleep with my head under the covers to shut the darkness out. Once […]

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