Where my son if often over–confident, too brave for a child of his years; my daughter can be timid, easily scared, wrapping tiny chubby arms around the curve of my neck when she’s afraid.
On the outside, the Chop and the Bump seem to be their own polar opposites. Chop, at four and a half, seems, a lot of the time, quiet and shy. He’s not really, not so much once you get to know him– while he can be pensive and tends to sit back and drink in the world around him, he never shies from anything; be it needles or the solid, adult truth about death.
|Lady Bump- future dragon slayer.|
The Bump, just two and a half, appears brave and boisterous, a drama queen who approaches situations without the caution or haste her brother shows. But in reality, with her defenses down, she is so easily scared, so quick to become hysterical over the tiniest thing… Raised voices. Anyone screaming, in fun or whatever else. Rouse on my daughter when she’s not expecting it and her tiny face crumples in the most tragic manner, and she sobs as if her heart were broken. She is tentative and seems even more fragile around men– the slightest word from Bunny or even her Poppy and she runs, snot and tears mixed to paste on her face, to be picked up and throw those tiny, chubby arms and legs around me and squeeze.
Sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, hysterical, sobbing and sweaty, unable to articulate what it is that has scared her so.
I think I know, I’m sure I know what she sees in the dark REM of night. It would not be so much what I see (orange rope, blue shirt, orange rope, blue shirt), but rather an aftermath she couldn’t possibly understand– her mother screaming, holding onto her like the only lifeline left in the world.
I try not to think about that. I find it almost a comfort that at the moment, her biggest fears are monsters and dragons… ‘normal’, childhood fears, concerned with things that are not real (a manifestation of my own willful ignorance, perhaps? Maybe. But let me have it, please, when I’m all too aware of what lurks underneath.)
The Bump has been convinced on various occasions that there is a monster in her room, a dragon outside the bathroom window, a shark on the floor of the lounge room. Her brother– for no other reason than he is her brother (“Why must you antagonize him?!” I ask my husband, exasperated as he stirs our son, in fun but almost to the point of screaming frustration. “It’s my god given right as his father”, would be the reply, every time, cheeky grin set in place)– adds to the Bump’s distress and works her up even further (it hits me again, as I type that– he is his father, miniaturized, by genetic design or mimic I do not know). My son is rarely malicious or spiteful, just a cheeky terror who is still too young to realize when things have stopped being a game for his sister, and become a little too real.
“Monster!”, he’ll scream, giggling his head off, and, depending on how tired or contrary she is feeling, the Bump will happily play along for a good five minutes before she starts screaming hysterically, unable to speak for her heaving, hiccuping sobs, tiny heart fluttering like a hummingbird in her chest. Sometimes it is her brother, deliberate and willful, who whispers something akin to “The dragon is going to eat you, Bump!” that will set her off. Other times it’s her own vibrant, over active imagination– her brother doesn’t even have to be present for her to be afraid of the dark, convinced that there is some kind of horrible monster outside her bedroom window. (“Why is the Bump’s light on tonight?” asks Bunny, accustomed to the Chop sleeping fully lit, but not my youngest. “Dude– there is a monster in her room. Wouldn’t you sleep with your light on?!”)
|Being a princess is hard work. And requires a corny, pirikura style frame. Obviously.|
These things are not real, I tell her, over and over. “Have you ever seen a monster, Bump, a real one? Are there such a thing as real dragons?” “Think about, sweetie, sharks can only swim in the water, not in houses– that’d be a silly shark, wouldn’t it…?”
“Now…are there really such things as monsters, dragons, small child-eating sharks that swim on carpeted floors? No, my darling, of course there isn’t. And things that aren’t real can’t hurt us, can they?”
Things that aren’t real, can’t hurt us.
There is no such things as monsters that lay in the dark, giving it teeth and ears and a liking for the scent of you.
Things cannot hurt you if they are only in your head. Things cannot hurt you if they are not real.
Maybe I emphasize it too much, too often.
Or maybe, in special circumstances such as my beautiful, exquisite little girl’s, there’s no such thing as ‘emphasizing it too often.’
Things that exist in your head can’t hurt you. It’s a concept my daughter, more than most other children, I think, needs to understand as well as she can.