My daughter thinks I am scary. In actual fact, my daughter will tell you that I am the scariest person in the world. I can ask her, “What’s the scariest thing in all the world?”
She’ll reply, “You are daddy.” Or more accurately, she’ll just point at me silently.
This all started one night, when she got out of bed and came into the living room, as children will inevitably do, and told me she couldn’t sleep. “Why?” I asked her. She said it was because she was scared of what might be outside. Well of course I then asked, “What might be outside?”
“Wolves,” she said.
So I tried to play the ‘everything is nice’ card by telling her, “But wolves are lovely creatures, they’re just like big fluffy dogs. They’re nothing to be scared of.”
“No they’re not,” she said, being her typical contrary self and thus gaining more time out of bed. “They have big teeth and they hunt other animals to kill and eat them. That makes them scary.”
Hmmm, I try a new approach, “Why would the wolves be here? Wolves don’t live in this country and if they did they certainly wouldn’t live in the city.”
“But foxes do and wolves are bigger than foxes so wolves would be better at living in the city” she replied. Damn she’s good I thought.
“Yes but,” I said, realising I’m now just promoting the idea of a post bedtime debate that is essentially just helping her achieve her original goal of not being in bed. “Yes but,” I said, “wolves like to run around and hunt animals. There aren’t enough animals in the city for wolves to hunt.”
“That’s why they might try to get me!”
I ran head first into that one. How did I not see that coming? She’s not just good, she’s damn good! So I thought for a moment and then realised this post bedtime, fantastical debate is not lost, I just need a new strategy. There’s no point trying to convince her of something that is clearly true (except in the mind of a bedtime fighting 5 year old) but only gives her reason to argue and as a result, achieve her goal of not being in bed. Instead, why not agree with her but offer a security blanket, something she can hold onto wherever she goes and that can never be left behind. So I say this, “Ok, you’re right, the wolves might come into the city and as there are clearly not enough animals for them to eat, they could come and try to get you. But guess what, you have something they don’t.”
I’ve created intrigue now, brilliant, the debate shifts in my favour. “What’s that?” she asks.
“You’ve got me. And because you’ve got me, the wolves will never come near you and certainly wouldn’t ever dare to hurt you. Do you know why?”
“Because I am the scariest of all the scary things in the world.”
That’s right, it’s bedtime and I’ve just told my 5 year old daughter that the scariest thing in the whole world is sitting right next to her. But you see this doesn’t matter, because now she knows that of all the scary things in the world, the scariest of them all loves HER. And so nothing else can do her any harm, even though she did try to throw a few examples my way:
“What even vampires are scared of you?”
“Yes, even vampires.”
“Yep even zombies.”
All the while I am becoming increasingly concerned about her knowledge of horror characters, until she finally asks, “But what if you’re not here? How will you scare them away?”
To which the reply was and still is, “It’s well known among all scary things that you are my daughter, and there is not a scary thing in this world that is brave enough to upset, hurt or anger the scariest of all the scary things and if anyone or anything were to hurt or upset you, that would make me angry and bring out the scariness.” She then gave me a kiss and went back to bed.
So that is why it’s ok to have my daughter believe I am the scariest thing in all the world. Because what better person is there to protect you?