James is scared of the hallway by his bedroom, which doesn't have any windows of its own and can get really dark, even during the day. He calls it the "pretty scary hallway" and doesn't like to walk down it alone. I don't want him to feel afraid, so I've decorated it with toddler-friendly decor, we leave the windows to the bedrooms open during the day, and I praise him for being brave when he does venture into it by himself.
He's also fascinated by and fearful of owls right now, largely because his grandfather has an artificial one in the garden to scare away birds. "Harold" has glowing eyes and makes a loud noise, and he can be pretty disconcerting to a little guy. We used a gift card left over from Christmas to buy a stuffed owl online, and James had fun picking it out on his own. Hopefully, "Pink Owl" will help him see how harmless and helpful owls really are, especially since they are so popular right now.
Going through these innocent fears with my son has got me thinking about my own childhood monsters, which were, in no particular order, The Big, Bad Wolf and Moammar Gadhafi. And now that Libya is in the midst of political unrest, I realize that they are really one in the same.
My fear of wolves, which exists even now, undoubtedly comes from the fact that those frightening beasts featured heavily as the antagonists in the literature of my childhood and, for whatever reason, I really took them to heart. Not to mention that my mom had a music box when I was little that played "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf." I still get chills whenever I hear that song, and I refused to bring the music box home when she recently dug it out for my boys.
And then there's the fact that I was a precocious second grader who watched the news and read the newspaper in 1986, right around the time that the U.S. decided to bomb Libya. I remember lying in bed after President Reagan addressed the nation, and listening to planes flying over our house. I prayed and prayed that they were not sent from Libya to bomb us in retaliation, and I'm pretty sure I stayed awake all night. After that, I remember feeling sick to my stomach whenever I saw Gadhafi on the news or heard his name mentioned anywhere, but I don't think I ever properly vocalized my fears to my parents.
Now that he's back in the news and I'm an adult with children of my own, I don't feel that feeling of sheer panic any longer. It is interesting to watch this revolt unfold from the perspective of a rational adult, rather than a scared little girl with no understanding of the world's politics.
I realize that, no matter how much I try to shield them, my boys will see and hear things that will frighten them as they grow. I'll do my best to be there for them.
**Random side note: Did you know that Gadhafi supposedly has a group of 40 female virgins called the Amazonian Guard that act as his own, personal army of bodyguards? How does one get that job? I don't really want to know.