Children are often afraid of the dark, but where does it stem from? Every night for the past two weeks, my daughter wakes up screaming. She hears things: a creak, a footstep, a partial sneeze and it is all coming from her closet. I am a newly single mother and, frankly, a bit leery about opening a door where someone may or may not be wielding a knife on the other side, but I do it—for her—while secretly cursing those obnoxious cries for help. Still, I could not understand why, at age nine, she was suddenly afraid of the boogeyman.
My mother suggested she might be suffering emotional trauma: a symptom of divorce, but I didn’t want to hear this because that would make it MY fault and, well… fuck that. I have enough on my plate already without the added pressure of feeling guilty. Even so, I could not stop thinking about what she said. What if it WAS my fault and, instead of doing something to help, I was looking for an excuse to be right? Downplaying my daughter’s anxiety was not okay with me, and I knew I had to do something. I decided to speak with her one afternoon while driving home from school.
Me: Honey, I want to talk about what’s been going on lately.
Her: *Stares blankly into space* Can I have a snack?
Me: *Tosses a bag of grapes into the backseat* I know you’ve been having trouble sleeping, and I think maybe something is bothering you. I have a feeling I know what it is.
Her: *Rolls eyes* Grapes? Got anything better?
Me: No, just eat the grapes.
Her: *Eats grapes* What do YOU think is bothering me?
Me: Wait—so something IS bothering you then?
Her: What do YOU think?
Me: Come on. Be serious.
Her: Nothing, mom. Nothing is bothering me.
Me: You can tell me.
Her: Why do YOU think it is?
Me: Well, you mentioned your friends were talking about getting robbed at school the other day. And now, all of the sudden, you are concerned about burglars.
Her: I’ve always been worried about that.
Me: True, but lately, it seems to have gotten a lot worse. Can you tell me what’s REALLY on your mind?
Her: *Gazes out window* What do YOU think?
Me: *Takes a deep breath* *Imagines mom’s face when I tell her she’s right* I know it’s been hard since your father and I s—
Me: Goosebumps? You mean the show you’ve been watching on Netflix?
Her: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. The one about the zombies freaked me out.
Me: Wait, I’m confused. You mean to tell me that the last two weeks, where I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night and check behind beds, doorways and shower curtains was because of a TV show?
Her: Yep, Goosebumps; spooky stuff.
And there you have it: for once I was right, and my mother was wrong. Imagine my short-lived joy when she picked up that phone and pretended not to care.