Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Traumatizing Your Children

by Sariah S. Wilson

My 4-year-old woke me up at 4:00 in the morning last night to tell me that he was scared (or “I skeered” as he said it). I turned on the bathroom light for him and that seemed to be enough. He went back to bed and back to sleep.

I did not.

I had to deal with the parental guilt over the fact that I’m the reason my 4-year-old has nightmares.

It all started at Disney World - a place that, I might add, deliberately advertises itself as a place where dreams come true. They don’t tell you about the nightmares part.

So we’re in the Animal Kingdom, and we’re at the enormous fake tree in the middle, because we’ve heard good things about the 3D show based on “A Bug’s Life.” Have you seen it?

Because if you’ve seen it, you know what’s coming next.

It starts out harmless enough - Flick (the hero ant) meets a variety of bugs that have special skills. One bug shoots acid to kill enemies - the audience gets sprayed with water. Another shoots quills and you feel puffs of air. But then a six foot tall Hopper (the bad grasshopper) comes out of the wall and commands bad bugs to attack. He sprays the audience with bug spray (mist everywhere), tells the spiders to get us (as they descend from a darkened ceiling) and has the hornets use their stingers (you get poked in the back).

It was at this point that my poor little boy turned to me and said in a frantic voice, “I want to leave!”

So I immediately took him out (not easy to do in that very dim room) and they had ushers standing at each of the exits. I found out this is something that regularly occurs, particularly when no less than 20 kids came out not long after we did.

This was on the second day of our vacation, and it nearly ruined the rest of our trip. That night after we had gone to sleep, he sat up in his bed and said, “Mommy, I want to go home.” I came over and comforted him, telling him that his dad and I were right there, and so was his brother, and that he didn’t have to be afraid. He laid back down, and a few minutes later he sat up and cried, “I want to go home right now!” He couldn’t even fall asleep without being scared, and I brought him to bed with me so that he could get some sleep. We were able to fix the sleeping problem - the next day we bought him a large stuffed Mickey Mouse and told him it was a special Mickey who would give him good dreams. He has slept with it every night since then.

The 4-year-old refused to go on any ride that was inside (even something as harmless as Peter Pan) or anything that was dark. We tried the Muppets 3D because it wasn’t supposed to be scary and while he did fine in the waiting room, he freaked out when the movie started. Obviously, the Haunted House was completely out of the question. We did manage to coax him onto rides like the Pooh one and Small World, but I could see his tension and worry as he went on each ride. He ended up loving Buzz Lightyear, but only got on the ride because we told him he could shoot all the bad guys.

I worry about having permanently scarred my baby. Will he now watch “A Bug’s Life” and have posttraumatic flashbacks?

My own mother unintentionally traumatized us. One way was by letting us watch a movie called “Mr. Boogedy.” As an adult, it is a very lame movie and not at all scary. As a kid, it was terrifying. We’ve all told her about the nightmares we had over Mr. Boogedy, and she’s just shocked. She feels really bad about it - she didn’t think it would frighten us at all.

So have you ever done something as a parent to permanently traumatize your child? Or did your parents do something to traumatize you?


At 11/18/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Isn't that an awful show? We went to the Disneyland version when author Anna Jones was here with two of her adorable little girls, visiting from Wales. I have no doubt that little Angharad (Harry) still has nightmares about the giant, horrifying, American bugs.
What were they thinking?

Next time I'm smuggling in a can of Raid.

At 11/18/2006 5:35 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

I remember having nightmares during first grade after we saw a movie in class about germs on food. Little summer squash-like germs leapt onto the food as it entered a cevernous mouth on what seemed to be a giant conveyor belt.

I couldn't sleep for several nights thereafter.

There must have been something else in the film that frightened me, but I only remember the mouth scene now. Oddly enough, I love summer squash.

At 11/18/2006 5:37 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Of course I misspelled a word 'cause I didn't proofread my post. That was a *cavernous* mouth in the movie.

At 11/19/2006 3:30 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Gah. I remember seeing "Mr. Boogedy" at my cousin's house. That scared the spit out of me too! Like you said, from an adult perspective it's pretty lame but I always had an over-active imagination anyway. I know it's impossible to guard your kids from everything scary and that they may well get freaked out by something you didn't think would bother them but one rule I know I'll have: NO scary movies. "Mr. Boogedy" and his buddies are not welcome in my house.

At 11/19/2006 6:14 PM, Anonymous Susan M said...

Who needs parents to traumatize you when you have older siblings? My (adult) sister used to babysit me when I was small. Every time the phone rang, it was the police coming to take me away. Every time I went outside, she'd say, "Don't let the bogeyman get you." Etc.

My youngest has an incredible imagination and to this day won't go on any rides more scary than a merry-go-round. He's 12.

At 11/20/2006 12:17 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

How about things I've done to my kids that traumatized *me?*

My daughter had baby bottle tooth decay because all she would drink was apple juice. (Parental guilt #1.) When she was four, I had to take her in to get her teeth filled, and we had to hold her down while she screamed bloody murder the whole time. (Parental guilt #2.) I was crying my eyes out, pinning my baby down so they could stick needles in her and drill. She's forgotten all about it, but I never, ever will.

At 11/22/2006 10:21 PM, Anonymous Janice said...

I once overheard my mom talking about a haunted house she'd lived in. She didn't realize I was listening and didn't leave out any details. It was a terrifying story and I had a really hard time sleeping for a long time. I bet she still feels guilty.


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