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Monsters in the Closet

It's 10:00 at night. I just left Jack's room, after holding him for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. We've been trying to get him to go to sleep since about eight - no luck. Having figured out that the Angry Voice and Threats To Take Away The Teddy Bear were having no effect, I finally pulled him out of bed and sat him in my lap.

"What's going on, Jack," I said, tired and bleary-eyed. I have sheets to change, a bathroom to wipe down, last minute items to pack because we're waking up at five tomorrow morning to catch a plane to Hawaii. I'll be excited once we land, I think. Right now all I can think about is how little sleep Jack is going to get, and how utterly unpleasant he is when he hasn't had enough.

I expected him to say one of the following (for the millionth time): "I need a Kleenex." "My shirt itches." "You too noisy, Mommy." "I want the door open a little more." "I need a toy." He looked up at me and said, "I scared of monsters coming in my room."

Oh. Monsters. Of course.

We've had the monster discussion a few times already. No, there are no monsters in your closet. No, there are no monsters in the bathroom. Mommy and Daddy are right outside your room and we're taking care of you. No monsters. But every time he brings them up I feel SO awful. I remember being scared of monsters and, truthfully, I still am. The monsters I'm scared of at age 30 are a little different than the ones at age 3, but I still know the feeling. The dark, the shadows, the feeling that all that goes on in your imagination is possible when the lights go out.

My Jack is turning into a little worrier, I'm afraid. It's not just monsters. It's whenever I raise my voice or exclaim over something and he says, "What's the matter, Mommy?" It's when he half-hears a conversation I'm having with a friend, and maybe I use the word "scared" or "upset", later he'll ask me what I'm scared of or upset about. He's always making sure I'm okay, that Molly is okay, that we're all okay. He's so attuned to my tone of voice, my body language. "You mad, Mommy?" "You only a little mad?"

Maybe it's his age? Or a phase? Being the sort of person who worries more than average, it makes me a little nervous. Not just because I know being an anxious worrier with an overactive imagination is no fun, but that I might be, I don't know - showing him how to do it! I'd hoped my kids would inherit my stunning intellect, my ballerina-worthy gracefulness, my fantastic good looks - NOT my neurotic tendencies. So... it's just his age, right? Your kids are anxious little critters too, right?

I spend so much of my day harping on that kid for being a twerp to his sister, for sassing, for resisting absolutely every single thing I ask him to do. And then all of a sudden he busts out with a, "I missed you at Grandma's house, Mommy" when I pick him up from an overnight stay, or a "It's too dark in my room, Mommy" or a "You going on the airplane too, right Mommy?" And how can I not sweep him up out of his bed, tuck him into my lap and hold him close? " Mommy's right here," I say into his sweaty head, pulling the blankie closer. "Mommy's taking care of you."

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