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The Monsters are Due on Maple Street*

I didn't go through a fear of monsters as a boy. I slept with a night light, the hall light on and the door open, but really, I was fine.

When Grace was just about three, she started talking about monsters and a general fear of the dark at bedtime. Being a clever nerd, I decided that I could override the irrational fears of a toddler. I set to work.

One night after stories and lullabies, she offered, "But there are no monsters in here."

"Monsters," I said. "You like monsters! Who are the monsters you know?"

 

I didn't go through a fear of monsters as a boy. I slept with a night light, the hall light on and the door open, but really, I was fine.


When Grace was just about three, she started talking about monsters and a general fear of the dark at bedtime. Being a clever nerd, I decided that I could override the irrational fears of a toddler. I set to work.

One night after stories and lullabies, she offered, "But there are no monsters in here."

"Monsters," I said. "You like monsters! Who are the monsters you know?"

She stared at me as if I had grown a second and third head of my own. "Elmo is a monster. He's funny. Telly Monster is nice. Don't forget Cookie Monster."

She wrinkled her little nose. "Zöe," she said.

"Right, Zöe!" I said. "Zöe is a ballet monster! Did you know monsters like ballet?"

She laughed, and that was it. No more complaints about monsters. I marched out of that room as if I were about to take the center podium at the Olympic Games. Super Dad, right here. Everyone gaze upon me and know that I am The Man.

So, two weeks ago, when nearly-three-year-old William started with the monster routine, I was ready. "Step aside," I thought, "and let The Master do his thing."

Fail.

"Waaaahh! I want Da-deeeeee!"

I went into his room. "What's the matter, William?"

"I don't like the dark."

"Oh, but you've got your night light, your friends.** See?" I turned the light on, then off. "The same friends, just in the dark." I turned the light back on and pointed to the wall. "See your pictures?" (His walls are covered with mini posters of The Boston Red Sox.) I turned the light back off. "The same in the dark."

I could tell he wasn't buying it, so I sang another song and he settled down.

The next night brought same thing. "But that monster is going to get me," he said. This continued for almost a week, and then I broke down. My Super Dad Powers were gone. Just like that. I traded in my cape and mask.

I went downstairs and grabbed the seashell night light we bought while on vacation. (It had been living in the bathroom.) Back in his room, I plugged it into the socket right next to his crib. "That's my Florida light!" he said, and proceeded to hold each of his friends up in turn so that they could "see" it. He changed his orientation in the crib so that he could stare at it while lying there. I closed the door and he went to sleep.

That was about a week ago, and he hasn't had a disruptive night since. My powers failed, but at least my boy is sleeping. With his Florida light. And his friends. And the hall light on.

Welcome to the club, kid.

*Apologies to Rod Serling

**His "friends" are the mountain of stuffed animals that occupy his crib. Thanks to my sister, who enjoys buying him "dangerous animals," the collection includes a Portuguese Man-of-War, a sting ray, a bat, a rattlesnake and a scorpion.

 

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