Apparently we have a hungry lion prowling our house late at night.
Last week it was monsters. The other night Rollie came out of his bedroom after we'd tucked him in, whimpering slightly, his little elephant lovey clutched to his chest. I intercepted him before he could wander into the family room and catch a glimpse of the fight scene from Pineapple Express that Jeff and I had been laughing our heads off at a few seconds before.
Me: What's the matter, Rollie?
Rollie: I'm scared.
Me: What are you scared of?
Rollie: I'm scared of things coming to get me.
Me: What things, Honey?
Me: What kind of monsters?
Rollie: Scary monsters.
Me: Scary monsters? Really? What did the monsters look like?
Rollie: They looked like they were going to eat me.
I'm pretty sure the monsters actually looked like the drawings from Where The Wild Things Are--Jeff recently dug up a bunch of his old books and Rollie fell in love with that particular story. Probably because he could relate to Max. Personally I always thought Max was a bit of a jerk, what with all that mischief-making and back-talking and chasing the family dog around with a fork. But who am I to squelch my son's love for the classics?
So I went into this whole speech about how there are no such thing as monsters, and when he got scared, he could just think happy thoughts and that Mommy and Daddy were always home with him at night and God was watching over him and all that stuff. This seemed to help, except now instead of him being afraid of some nebulous, fictitious monster, he came out of his room last night claiming to be afraid of a lion. A big, furry, hungry lion.
I wasn't sure how to field this one. I couldn't exactly tell him that lions don't exist, that they aren't hungry and wouldn't go after him like a bunch of chubbies vying for fried okra at The Golden Corral. But I figured I should try to allay his fears. The following conversation is evidence that I completely suck at putting kids at ease. Which is why I don't write children's books:
Rollie: There's a lion coming to eat me.
Me: Why do you think a lion is coming to eat you?
Rollie: Because he's hungry.
Me: Rollie, no lion would ever, ever eat you.
Me: Well, because they don't live anywhere around here.
Rollie: Where do lions live?
Me: They live far far away, in jungles and places like that.
Rollie: Jungles like where Diego lives?
Me: I don't know, does Diego live in a jungle?
Me: Well then, I guess so.
Rollie: Will lions eat Diego?
Me: I don't think so.
Rollie: Why will they not eat Diego?
Me: Because they don't really eat children. They eat other things.
Rollie: What do they eat?
Me: I don't know, like zebras and giraffes and things like that.
Rollie looks at me with very wide, concerned eyes.
Crap, I think. Back peddle, back peddle back peddle....
Me: Well, not really zebras and giraffes. More like, berries and nuts and stuff.
Rollie: Why not zebras and giraffes?
Me: I don't really know what lions eat, Rol-Rol
Rollie: Will they eat me?
Me: Nope. They can't catch you. You're too fast.
Rollie: Oh....Will they eat Baby Els?
Me: Um...no....Baby Elsa doesn't taste good.
Rollie: Why doesn't she taste good?
Me: She just doesn't.
Rollie (as if sensing a hole in my logic): What does she taste like?
Me: I don't know, what do you think she tastes like?
Rollie: Oranges. (His "tastes like chicken" answer.)
Rollie: And French Fried Boogers (His other "tastes like chicken" answer.)
We went around like this a few times, me assuring Rollie that lions couldn't possible eat him even if they wanted to, Rollie trying to navigate through every loophole in my argument, trying to convince me that a lion could eat pretty much whatever it wanted, French Fried Booger flavor or not. In the end I finally sent him back to bed with some milk, which I think is what he wanted all along. But already I can see this snowballing, turning into him being afraid of lightning, the dark, his closet, his creepy Elmo doll with the bulging, lidless eyes.
I suppose as long as he can run faster than Elsa, he doesn't have too much to be afraid of. Of course, once Elsa is old enough to develop her own fears, I'm in trouble. I know all about big brothers exploiting the fears of their younger, defenseless siblings. I've seen Jaws with my brother Matt one too many times. You know that part when the shark bites Quint in half and blood starts spurting from his mouth? Still give me nightmares. That's what watching it in slow motion fifty times with your older brother snickering in the background will do to you....