Facing Down the Bogeymen
Halloween isn’t easy for my youngest little pumpkin. While she loves dressing up and of course loves the candy, the sight of a scary mask makes her whimper and cry. This started two years ago when she was just four. We were enjoying the early, still-daylight Small Town downtown trick-or-treat when she spotted her first Grim Reaper mask. She ducked behind me and buried her little face in my legs crying, “No, Mama! No, Mama!” The kid wearing the mask had a kind heart. He saw that he had scared her and he took off the mask and said, “Hey now – I’m just a kid! See!” Even with the mask off and the kid trying to make amends, she was still a trembling wreck. We made a beeline for home, Mia in my arms (and goodness, she was a heavy 4-year-old) with me scouting ahead for scary masks. I would tell her to put her head on my shoulder and close her eyes when one approached. When we finally got home I sent Anna out with Gus and I stayed home, doing my best to distract a frightened child from her memories of scary things.
Last year she refused to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. No amount of reassuring her that there were just regular people behind the masks could change her mind. She opted instead to go to the high school football game with her sitter while I took her brother around for candy. He, of course, promised to share his stash with her.
This year looked to be a repeat of the same. A few weeks ago we walked through the costume section of a local department store. We turned the corner of the aisle with all the masks and she immediately began whimpering, “No, Mama. No.” We quickly changed routes and she kept looking suspiciously over her shoulder, just in case. Then something happened. She announced a few days ago that she wanted to trick-or-treat. She said she wasn’t afraid anymore. And so tonight we set out, the four of us, to explore our new neighborhood. Let me tell you, this is THE place to be on Halloween! Friendly neighbors, fun decorations, and tons of kids! She did amazingly well. She held onto my hand firmly for the first few houses, then she gained a little courage. We did encounter a couple of costumes that caused her to jerk back with a “No, Mama!” but as soon as I strategically placed myself between her and the offending costume, she calmed down. We skipped the houses that had scary music, strobe lights, or haunted houses in the garage. (I tell you, they go all out in this neighborhood!) I would say the night was a great success – at least as long as we make it through the rest of the night with no nightmares.
Me? I encountered a bogeyman from my past tonight. Anna’s dad called her on her cell while we were out. I could tell the conversation was not going well and eventually she just handed her phone to me. My conversation with him did not go well either. I stood my ground with him, but it ended with him threatening to see me in court before he hung up on me. After 12 years of being free from that hell of a marriage, I am ashamed to say that the man is still capable of making me nauseous – physically sick and shaking like jello inside. Surely I should be beyond this by now, but no.
Had the encounter ended like that, I would probably still be sick and shaking. But Anna, God bless her soul, is not afraid of her dad in the same way I am. She called him back and gave it to him for hanging up on me. When he cussed her, she hung up on him. It shook her for a minute, then she tackled things in the manner of communication with which she is most comfortable – texting. I am amazed at the conversation she had – firm, very firm, but not disrespectful. When he demanded that she have me call him she refused, saying that first of all I was not going to fight with him and second, it wasn’t about me it was about them. Every time he tried to pull me back into the middle she refused to let him. She laid out the issues between them, reminding him that she is just 6 weeks away from turning 18 and that she can speak for herself just fine. And you know what? She really can!
The bogeymen were out tonight. When they threatened my littlest daughter, I stepped in between her and them and protected her. When they threatened me, my oldest daughter stepped in and protected me. I am humbled and amazed – and very, very thankful.
My little girls are growing up.