Saturday, March 10, 2012

Behind the Mask

Several weeks ago, my daughter was struggling with some anxieties and fears...anxieties and fears about things she'd seen, things she'd been told by a kid at school, things she didn't understand.  Lots of bad dreams and nightmares.

Basically, it boiled down to one word. 

Monsters.

For children, monsters are very real.  They're shaggy, sharp-toothed creatures with black claws and red eyes.  They're slimy beings that can slide and slither under doors, foggy air that seeps through window screens and drapes over the bed, cloaking the sleeper in a stranglehold of nightmares.  Monsters are horrible dragons and vampires and the boogey man.

I held her close, rubbing her back and kissing her head.  "Shhh," I said.  "No worries, baby.  Monsters are just people with masks on.  It's makeup and special effects and all very, very pretend."

Afterward, guilt nagged at me.  I thought about what I said.  "Monsters are just people with masks on."  That's true sometimes. 

But other times?

Other times, the mask is safe.  It's the monster lurking behind that we must fear.

Forget about the boogey man, monsters under the bed, the beast in the forest, mysterious things that go bump in the night.  None of them are relevant.  None of them are real.  They don't matter.  Our imaginations can't hurt us.

The worst fear in the world is fear of people.  Fear of the monster you know.  Fear of the person behind the mask, because you know who is there...you know the evil, the anger, the outcome you already know is coming, the violence that floats just beneath the surface of the mask that he or she wears so well in public.

Fear of the known is far worse than fear of the unknown.  At least with the unknown, our imagined fear is often greater than real fear. 

Aside from all of that, though, I think about what to teach my daughter and how to teach her to manage fear, to overcome fear, or at the very least, to live with the known and unknown.  I haven't mastered it myself yet! 

Conquering fear itself.  That's nowhere in the parent manual.

1 comment:

Jim Latchford said...

Well written and well contemplated.