It’s that time of year again, the season of scaring the pants off our kids while patching it up with pumpkins, pie, and sweet treats from the neighbors. For our family, the end of October signifies the moving of Mae and Haze’s ‘fear boundary’. How far can we push them this year? Can I hide in a closet wearing an evil pig mask and jump out wielding a sickle after they walk by? Or, are we still at the sneaking up and saying “Boo.” stage? What about scary stories, movies, and haunted houses?
Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe. – Tao Te Ching.
It wasn’t always this way, we used to think that images of zombies, ghosts, and Frankenstein would send our kids to the wheelhouse of horror and scar their psyche with morbid images; creating sleepless nights, screaming fits, and fear of the world around them.
We aren’t showing them A Nightmare on Elm Street yet, or watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre in a cemetery at midnight with the sound of a generator humming in the background. No. But when we walked into a Halloween store last Saturday and were greeted by Regan (Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist) standing with her arms out, head ready to spin, and vomit on deck, we stopped and pushed the red button to activate her signature move. The girls stared, we laughed, and everyone moved on to find Strawberry Shortcake and Batgirl.
Here is where fear gets murky. Is it a double standard then that we didn’t go to the women’s costume area for my fear that Mae and Haze would see a scantily clad cop and an almost nude nurse? We fear them seeing those images more than the gashed up zombie faced girl at the checkout counter. Or perhaps, we fear having to explain it to them.
What worries me is that we will protect Mae and Haze from the realities of life, rather than teach them why they exist and how to live with them. We don’t want to do that, which means we have to discuss uncomfortable topics with them as they strive to make sense of their surroundings.
While watching football the next day, with commercial to game segues filled with women jumping and shaking pom-poms that meet advertisements full of half dressed cowgirls eating BBQ sandwiches, I reflect on my typical command “Turn your heads.” If I ask them to turn their heads without explaining why, I’m giving my fear power and mystifying what images they did see.
Seeing through our aversions to feel safe, starts with understanding and confronting, not confusing and running away from, things that make us feel uncomfortable. There are many things people fear: planes, spiders, and clowns (yes, a big one for me). But, regardless of what we fear, if we don’t explain why to our kids, we create confusion. If we can’t explain why, perhaps we should examine what we fear.
It’s when we ‘see through our fear’, rather than letting it paralyze us, that we understand what feeling safe means. Although, a few moments of paralyzing fear once a year may be healthy. Now, where’s my pig mask?[box type=”blank” class=”bg-blue rounded-10″]What scares you the most? What fears have you put onto your children? Do you have any stories of working through your kid’s, or your own, fears?[/box]
Andrew Meyer is a Special Education teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, whose wife’s job relocation changed their family roles and physical location. He's now a stay-at-home dad in Madison, Alabama, to two awesomely creative, sometimes challenging, and mostly sweet five and two-year-old girls who fill his days, nights, and in-between spaces. When with or without them, he writes, works-out, wonders, wishes he wouldn’t worry, wrestles with his wife’s commitment to her job, and listens to music. You can also find him at www.papasense.wordpress.com, on Twitter @papasense, and Facebook.