I've spoken before about my childhood, growing up in a house in which horror movies were a constant. I don't remember not knowing who Dracula was, and one of the first movies I remember watching is The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Well, that, and Swamp Thing. The two slimy creatures are inextricably blended in my dreams.
I liked it, though. I was never at a lack for ways to scare my friends at sleepovers. I had nightmares about monsters, sure, but my most terrifying recurring dream involved me attempting to drive a big car over a bridge made of two tightrope wires.
The monsters? They were just another thing in my life. For the most part, they didn't affect me. (Except the C.H.U.D.s. One day I'll tell that Embarrassing Childhood Story here...just for my mom...but not today.)
For the most part, we're raising Zoe the same way. Our house is filled with superheros, bad guys, action figures from Star Wars. Zombie books. You name it, we probably have it. I used to try to keep them from Zoe, to shelter her, but that's mostly impossible. Completely limiting her exposure to monsters didn't feel right.
Today Charles added something new to our collection: a blood-splattered Rick Grimes action figure (he's the sheriff in The Walking Dead), the back of which is decorated with pictures of the other, zombie action figures. (He bought it for me. I love my husband.)
Zoe took it off the counter.
"Ew, Daddy," she said, laughing. "Look at the zombies!"
Together, they analyzed the zombie that pulled apart to become a crawler. They laughed over the one whose brain comes out of its head.
Because Zoe knows zombies aren't real. She knows Mommy writes zombie books, but makes it all up. We have a LOT of discussions over what's real and what's pretend.
And, you know, she has her fears, and for the most part she self-censors. She's terrified of witches right now, and won't even look at the cover of The Wizard of Oz or Snow White, since the evil witches make her cry. She hated the cover of Dawn of the Dreadfuls, which had a child zombie, so that book is tucked away where she can't reach it.
And, sometimes I do have to protect her.
Because for me another recurring dream involves a scream. A tire rolling past my seat in the back of my parents' car.
That was an impression that stuck around from an accident I witnessed when I was so young I don't actually have memories of it.
Yesterday, Zoe and I drove home from work and school. We were a little late, since I'd been caught in a meeting, and when we hit a patch of traffic on a road close to home, I silently cursed. I was ready to be home.
Then, as we got closer to the source of the traffic, I saw the blue flashing lights of a few police cars. I saw a fire truck.
In the back, Zoe was happily chatting about the randomness in her head.
The accident was on our left. It was bad. I saw an overturned car, and a truck without a front end.
On our right was a small river that winds through our little area of the city. It's pretty and marshy and we both like to look at it.
"Baby, do me a favor, ok?" I said as I stared at the decimated cars.
"Watch the river for dolphins, ok? I really want you to find me a dolphin."
I drove nearer to the accident, willing the car in front of me to go faster. Luckily whoever survived the wreck was long taken away, I assume by ambulance. Of course the cars around me drove slow, staring at the piles of rubble.
"Do you see any dolphins, Boo? Any at all?"
"Yes! I see one! I see the fin!"
"Great! Find me another!"
We finally passed the wreck. Zoe turned forward, as we were past the river, too.
Sometimes, you do need to protect your child from the things you can't explain.