To scare a monster with a monster

Note: This column appears in the 6/16 issue of The Glendale Star and the 6/17 issue of the Peoria Times

It has recently been revealed that our daughter is scared of Cookie Monster.
I can’t say that I blame her, with his aggressiveness and broken English—I’m not so sure that “Me want cookie!” is the best educational resource for young children—not to mention his wandering eyes and the fact that he is a self-described monster. Nevertheless, this evolved fear has been wonderful news for us.

You see, virtually nothing scares our daughter. In fact, she is greatly amused by the rare occasions when she is scared, like when I jump out from nowhere during a game of hide-and-seek. More, more! As parents of a child who, not yet two, is still too young to grasp the consequences of discipline—we still valiantly try though, which typically worsens the behavior we were attempting to correct—we are more than ready to employ scare tactics.

Is this wrong? Probably. But I think that, as parents, we are often asked to set down the moral compass in the interest of greater goals, like ending a hunger strike or being able to move about normally in a public setting. Plus, if we lose our sanity, nobody will be there to parent her.

Last weekend was one mini-disaster after the other. Constant mayhem, unnerving selfishness, and borderline malicious defiance, all of which had us both, but my wife especially, on the verge of a breakdown. (My in-laws, by the way, insist that my wife is raising an exact replica of herself, to their utter delight.) This terrible behavior resulted in my wife looking furiously online for a Cookie Monster mask.

For reasons that transcend corrective behavior, I was really looking forward to seeing my wife, amidst the chaos of the latest tantrum, jump out wearing a Cookie Monster mask and yell in a deep voice, “Cookie Monster say, ‘Eat your dinner or else!’” I would have definitely taken a Flip video of that to send out to the family, and to Parents Magazine. But alas—she either couldn’t find an adult-sized mask, or, more likely, abandoned her search on second thought.

One day after our exhausting and self-reflective weekend, my wife was working late and so I put our daughter to bed. After she had fallen asleep, a landscaper working next door, but right by her bedroom window, turned on his extremely loud blower. It scared our daughter out of her sleep. Like, really scared her.

“Dad-DEEE, Dad-DEEE!” she desperately and repeatedly screamed from her crib, and while we normally make it a point to not go back into her room if she cries, this was a special exception. Plus her “Dad-deee” scream is my kryptonite.

I rushed in there to comfort her back to sleep. It’s a strange feeling to see your child genuinely scared—you feel sad for them, but there’s an overwhelming feeling of happiness at being there to comfort them, and joy that they called you to do so.

I told my wife what happened when she got home, and she put her hands over her heart and made extra certain I went in there. I’m pretty sure she abandoned her search knowing that whoever wasn’t playing Cookie Monster would cave and immediately console our daughter, rendering the whole operation useless. I guess we’ll continue parenting the old-fashioned way—persistent love, discipline, and constantly questioning whether or not we’re doing the right thing.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dad-dees out there doing the same. Enjoy your kryptonite.


Anonymous said…
I have often wandered if parents had any clue as to how hard it is to raise children, how many of us would be here today. If you are a caring parent then it becomes 10x's as hard. The easy part is allowing the child to get his or her way & then you have failed as a parent. Keep be caring & loving. Your rewards can be great.