My Girls didn’t used to be scared of the dark…
Visitation rights have been changed: we get visitation with the girls every other weekend, uninterrupted, and for six weeks in the summer, uninterrupted. It’s such a relief not to have to compromise every other evening to drive back and forth and deal with the in-laws for a few precious hours of chaos. I usually don’t get to see the girls at all because picking me up from work would be another trip back and forth within the two hour timeframe, so I spend a few hours at work after I’m off the clock reading or knitting (I found an amazing pattern for baby booties I’ll be pinning on Pinterest). Now we get to brush their teeth before bed and brush their hair in the morning. This is especially a relief to us because their grandparents don’t know how to properly take care of hair, and butcher Gloria’s bangs, which she didn’t even have before this ordeal started.
The first night back we watched “The Gruffalo” and “The Gruffalo’s Child” as a family and all the kids camped in the living room for the night.
Last night they girls were supposed to sleep in their room…
Gina screamed, and Gloria had the tears rolling as well. Geraldine needed all the grown-ups to know that her sisters were scared of the dark. I didn’t believe it, I’m still not sure that I do. Daddy called all the girls into the living room for a meeting. He gave them the task of covering up their eyes and asked them, “Can you see me?”
“No,” they sang in chorus.
“Because it’s dark!” Geraldine announced. That’s when he explained to them that the safest place was in the dark, because other things can’t see in the dark, either.
“Now, what could possibly scare you here?”
A moment of silence. Then Geraldine shouted, “Nothing!” She’s usually the voice for her sisters.
“That’s right. Monsters don’t exist, and all the dinosaurs are dead. They were all killed when a meteor hit the Earth. If they weren’t all dead, I would eat them.” This thrilled the girls.
“What if there’s a snake?”
“I would cut its head off and eat it. I’ve eaten snakes before.” This also thrilled them. I tried to remember if he’d told me this story before. “Name some animals and I’ll tell you if I’d eaten them before.”
“Yes.” Wow, we need to teach them what bacon’s made of, I was sure we’d gone over this before. “Name some scary animals.”
They were quiet. The truth is that they’re not actually scared of animals. They’re actually fascinated by snakes; Gloria examined the carcass of one with me on the walk home on a rainy day. He came up with one for them. “I’ve eaten a bear before.” They squealed and giggled at this. I’ve eaten shark, but I kept this to myself. He excused himself briefly to the bedroom and returned with a rusted machete. “If there is a snake, I’ll cut its head off with this. How many snakes do you think I’ve killed with this big knife?”
“Three!” Geraldine declared.
“Way more than that.” He sat back down on the couch and the little ducklings gathered around him again. “Now being realistic, what kind of things can hurt you?”
Silence. See, I told you they weren’t really scared.
“Well, a robber could hurt you. But if he comes in through the back door, the dog will go wild, and I will be up in a hurry. And if he comes in through the front, I sleep right there.” He gestured to the bedroom door right by the couch right by the front door. “I will come out with my gun, and then where is the safest place for you to be?”
“IN THE DARK!” Geraldine bellowed.
“No,” Ed corrected, “on the ground.”
“Oh.” Geraldine slapped her small hands over her mouth.
“So really the safest place will be in the dark on the ground.”
We each have a different approach for the girls. Alice will tell them to ask Jesus to help when they’re scared. Bailey will dismiss and distract. She might say “What’s a snake going to do? You can punch it in the nose!” or something like that. Edward uses straightforward logic, and I have a slightly grim, realistic approach. It’s not always the healthiest approach for little kids, so I’ll let the other grown-ups step up to the plate before me.
As great as Edward’s lesson to the girls was, it didn’t end Gina’s sporadic screaming, Gloria’s crying, and Geraldine’s yelling. I let them be until I heard Geraldine shout, “SHUT UP!”
Woah. My Girls are not mean. I stormed into their room and called them each out. Gina was first, I had to raise my voice for her to hear me, and then felt resentful with the petitioners for accusing us of yelling at our kids when there were times that a raised voice was necessary. Gina quieted down momentarily and I instructed her not to cry. Then I turned to Geraldine and let her know not to tell her sisters ‘shut up’ because it was mean. She tried to justify it and I informed her that there was never a good time to be mean to her sisters and that we don’t say ‘shut up’. I’m certain that their grandfather was the culprit and again felt resentful to him and his wife for their hypocrisy. Then I turned back to Gina. “What’s wrong.”
“Scared of what, Gina.” She pointed and mumbled. “You’re scared of the shadows?”
“What is a shadow going to do to you?”
“Bite me.” I figured it would be hurtful if I laughed, so I didn’t.
“A shadow can never bite you. What else are you afraid of?”
“Do you remember when I had a snake?”
“Do you remember when it bit Gloria?”
“Yeah.” I gestured at her now.
“Is she okay?”
“Yeah.” I also reminded her that even after that, Gloria still wanted to play with it, and that I had since rehomed the snake. Then I distracted them by talking about flowers. I gave them the name of some flowers, and they agreed that they were pretty, though I’m not sure they knew what kind of flowers I referred to. I thought it was interesting that Gloria liked green flowers so much.
I wish I could say that I was the last one who addressed the girls, but I can’t remember, I was dangerously tired.