The other day, I was walking around with Paula Abdul’s song “Opposites Attract” in my head. Why? Because there is some sick, twisted part of my brain that is apparently into self-torture.
But in fact, dealing with opposites is part of my daily routine. My nine year old daughter and six year old son could not be more different.
Other than the fact that they were both preemies, there are little similarities between the two of them. I can probably name them on one hand. They both like roller coasters, movies, Tootsie Pops, reading books, and long walks on the beach. That’s about it.
My daughter rises early, likes to help me clean, and hates to be tickled . My son has to be physically removed from his bed, makes big messes, and begs us to tickle him until he’s ready to pee his pants.
She likes sparkles, he likes trucks. She like horses, he likes trucks. She likes shopping, he likes trucks. Okay, okay, he likes trains too.
My daughter is predictable, while he is a wild-card. She is well-behaved, and we call him Jim Carrey Junior. She is polite, and he once told a woman with big lips that she looked like a fish.
Tonight at dinner, they showed us yet another difference between them. Because when I grabbed some quick extras to go with our cheeseburgers, my son saw me and said, “Yum! A veggie tray!”
And my daughter said, “Yum! Sun chips!”
She totally takes after her Mother.
Saturday night, I left my nine year old daughter downstairs while I went up to take a shower. She was watching a Harry Potter movie, which can be a bit spooky when you’re alone in a room and it’s dark outside. But, when I asked her if she was okay staying downstairs by herself, she shrugged as if I’d asked her the dumbest question ever and she replied, “Sure. I’m fine.”
A few minutes later, I was washing my hair and our dog started to bark incessantly…and I started to get anxious. Obviously someone was outside and my daughter was alone downstairs, and I was not in any condition to answer the door should someone knock. My husband wasn’t home and my last post about Amityville Horror was fresh in my mind.
Eventually the dog stopped barking, but as I finished showering I came to a realization. When someone jumps out to scare me, there’s a reason I burst into tears.
This is not about the boogie-man or being scared to go to haunted houses. This is not about getting spooked. My fear is real.
When I was eight, my aunt not only took me to my first horror movie, but that was also the year that another eight year old girl, who lived near me, was picked up on her way home from school, sexually assaulted, and murdered. They found her body a few miles from where I lived. They never found the killer.
Her death was the reason that my childhood memories include staying up all night reading, because I was scared of my own dreams.
After my kids go to sleep, I go into their rooms and marvel at how they are peacefully slumbering when their closet doors are open. Then I shut them. I move hanging clothes so they don’t cast frightful shadows if they wake during the night. I shove toys out of the way should they need to come running to me. These were the things I did, and still do, so I can sleep through the night. I don’t do it because my kids need it, it’s because I do.
In my teens and early twenties, I was involved in an abusive relationship. It ended with him stalking me and threatening me. I bought a gun and learned how to use it. The police had enough evidence to press charges against him, but that’s never stopped the nightmares.
Then shortly after my husband and I were married, I was home alone when I saw a car drive slowly past our house, over and over. Something about it was unsettling. A short time later, a strange man approached my window and looked inside.
I was standing a few feet away, in a dark shadow with my gun in my trembling hand. I didn’t know if he was going break in while I stood within an arms length. He left as quickly as he appeared, but I still don’t know what he was doing or what he wanted. The police caught him that night at the end of our street and pressed charges against him. That is why we went out a few weeks later and bought our dog.
These random events have made me paranoid. These random events have done enough to scar me so that the slightest “boo” completely freaks me out.
But somehow, I have not transferred any of this to my children. They can go to sleep with their closet doors open. Somehow, despite the anxiety I have deep inside of me, my daughter can watch Harry Potter alone, in the dark, with the dog barking at someone outside.
And if that doesn’t prove that I’m conquering these demons, I don’t know what will.
When I was eight years old, one of my aunts took me to see Amityville Horror. My eleven year old cousin and I insisted upon sitting in the front row of the darkened theater. That lasted for all of the opening credits. The screen suddenly showed pouring rain and as soon as the first bolt of lightening flashed, we flew up the aisle to the safety of the back row, where nothing could grab us from behind.
For years, I had trouble being anywhere near houses that have faces, and when my cousin and I found a splash of red paint in an empty room of our grandma’s cellar, I didn’t go down there for a long, long time.
That’s when it started. With Halloween fast approaching, I’m letting the world know…this chick does NOT like the scary.
Though I really don’t have to tell the world. I think I’ve made it quite obvious.
There was the time I hid the entire top half of my body under my husband’s jacket as we made our way through a haunted forest. And, once we went to a haunted house with another couple. The evening ended on a sour note, when the three of them went on to enjoy the terror festivities and I stayed in the car and cried.
That wasn’t the first, nor was it the last, occasion that I’ve cried when someone scared me. As an adult. That’s right. In order to get the tears flowing, you don’t have to hurt my feelings…you just have to jump out and say boo.
So, if you want to find me as the season of ghosts and goblins draws near, I’ll be the one sitting in the corner, possibly sucking my thumb. With two solid walls behind me, at least I’ll know that nothing can grab me from behind.