by Lori Dwyer on April 23, 2012 · 10 comments

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.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa Mitchell April 24, 2012 at 11:53 am

Oh Princess Bump. Poor little thing. My boys are like her. They seem a bit brave. Fun, boisterous. And they are. Until a voice is raised. (They don't hear it at home, so when it happens, it is terrifying for them). Until someone gets cross with them. Then their hearts are shattered and mine along with them.


Jane April 24, 2012 at 6:48 am

I like these posts, it's almost like you're reminding yourself how precious your children and your life is. I find these incredibly affirming.


Nellie April 24, 2012 at 12:31 am

When I was little I was scared of vampires. Terrified. I knew they weren't real, but at night… In the dark… Real has no power over creatures that just are.

I got a polar bear Teddy for Christmas- the largest and fiercest of all bears – And he and I hatched a plan. Since he wasn't "real" either if a vampire came all bets were off. He would instantly come alive and rip the vampire apart.

Whenever I am having trouble sleeping – when mr Nellie is out of town – I pull my bear out from under my bed and sleep with him. Still. I am pregnant with my first child and 30 years old. And I love my warrior bear.

I also already have a polar bear for my little one.

Sometimes the best way to fight the scary things is to fight them. :)

You are a brilliant mum Lori. I read your posts and hope I Will know my little one the way you know yours.


Melissa April 23, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Ooh! I came across a story just recently (I'd give credit if I could remember where) about a child afraid of monsters in her room and how it was resolved. Turns out she had a sleepover at a relative's house and in the cousin's room was a bowl with a couple of goldfish. Quick-thinking mum told her that monsters can't come in rooms with goldfish as they're scared of them. Downside was she then had to buy some fish when they got home but apparently it worked!

I thought it was a nice idea anyway….



MummyateMe April 23, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Little imaginations are such a double edge sword, aren't they! My son is terrified of a pterodactyl that lives in the bathroom across the hall from his bedroom.

I love his imagination but it breaks my heart to see him so scared.

A friend did give me a great idea though – she has told her daughter that the underside of her pillow, the cold side, is magic. So whenever her daughter has a bad dream they turn over the pillow and the magic protects her. So sweet!


Melissa April 23, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I've loved these posts so much – I feel like I've "gotten to know" Bump and Chop just a little bit better. They are amazing and beautiful.


Cassandra Louise April 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

What a blessed little one! Your description of her reminds me of how I used to feel as a very small child. I was a princess, too. When I got a bit older (ok, 17) I stopped being a princess and started being a fairy instead. I made friends with a dragon (his name is Dragon) and he keeps me safe. :-)


Donna April 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

I'm glad you posted this today as I have been thinking of you and your two beautiful children Lori since I had the pleasure of meeting them on Friday. I want everyone to know that they are such a credit to you – not only were they beyond cute but so well mannered and behaved (putting the likes of mine to shame!). Dont ever let anyone ever accuse you of anything less than being a brilliant, beautiful Mummy x


Debyl1 April 23, 2012 at 10:45 am

I dont know if this may help but I have heard that some parents who have children with problems with monsters in the rooms or dreams have had success by introducing a protector from monsters.Eg could be a special blanket on their bed or cuddle toy or bracelet/ring or hanging mobile etc whatever you think would suit your child.They tell their little loved one that this will stop any monsters coming into their room or into their dreams.
When my girl was little I read this great book to her on certain nights…some chapters you guide them through a magical land and they come to a worry tree and place all their worries there.It has many amazing chapters.I think you would love it.
Moonbeam by Maureen Garth


Miss Pink April 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

I have never liked the idea of monsters. The tales from parents of "Get back to bed because if you put your feet out the boogeyman will get you" and the like.
I don't remember much talk of monsters with Bluey. I can't recall anything specific anyway, but Greenie talks about them all the time. When we cuddle up upon his waking and I ask him if he had a good sleep and did he have nice dreams, what were they about?
He often likes to say he had dreams about "monsters" in that big mysterious voice. I have said to him "Monsters? Were you scared?" and he always replies "No?" Sometimes as I am putting him to bed, talking about the things we will do upon him waking, I will ask "What are you going to have dreams about?" and he has been known to tell me "Monsters" as if he wants to dream about them.
Quite strange.

I think Bump has an understanding of the world most children, let alone adults, never get. That, yes, what's in your head CAN hurt you. Maybe not in the same way as an actual monster, but it can still hurt. Maybe this is her way of letting you know she is hurting and scared?


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