Here is one of those conversations that, when you’re in the middle of it, it seems like you are leading it into a good and positive place. And then you get to the end and realize how terribly wrong it all went and that you may be single-handedly responsible for further damaging your child’s psyche (if you really want to).
I was watching The Middle and The Baby through the window. The Middle had a Tee set up and was teaching The Baby how to hit the ball. It was one of those moments that you just know you have to get on film but you also know that if you are seen they will stop and the moment will be lost forever. I grabbed my video camera and headed to the one window that I knew had both a great view and a screen that had detached from the corner of the frame. I slid the window open and recorded for a minute or two before being detected. Both boys came over to the window and The Baby reached his pudgy little hand up into the window frame. The Middle jumped back a foot, a mortified look on his face.
“He’s touching a spider web,” he yelled.
“It’s not a spider web,” I said, trying to quell the rising panic and future trauma of having witnessed someone actually touch a spider web.
“What is it then?”
I thought fast, looking for an answer that would seem less threatening. “It’s just a cobweb.” (That’s right, I have ripped screens and cobwebs….judge me)
“What’s a cobweb?”
“It’s nothing, “ I tried to brush it off, “just a dusty…thing.” (Really, the kid is 6 and has lived in my house every year since his birth, he should know what a cobweb is by now!).
A while later he asks, “What’s a cob?”
“What?” (By then I had forgotten about that whole conversation)
“What’s a cob?”
As I realized what he was talking about, I saw a golden opportunity to create my own legacy. A child-hood memory that my children could pass on to their children detailing the little known fable of the great and evil Cob. A creature so hideous, with yellow eyes and pointed teeth, that he is forced to hide in the corners of rooms and windows and under beds awaiting the nights when he is finally free to wander, feeding on anything left laying in his path. His one hope is that some night a child will have left a pile of clothing, toys or books high enough so that he can reach the bedding and pull himself up to the top of the bed. Once there he only needs to feed off the finger of a sleeping child and he will grow to the size of an elephant and will then rule the world. Just one finger is all he needs…
The story grew quickly in my head and tickled my tongue, wanting to be verbalized. And my mind, just as quickly began weighing the pros and cons of what I was about to say. A mental slide show raced through my head with images of me soothing The Middle from nightmares night after night after night. My mind also factored in the distribution of information, meaning that The Oldest would inevitably hear the story of the great and terrible Cob and he would also be up with nightmares every night. And that kid doesn’t need any more to fuel to fire his fears.
I‘m not proud to admit that I wrestled with my decision, and that both choices were equally tempting and I could imagine either decision warming my heart a little.
“Mom. What’s a cob?”
“There is no such thing as a cob, son.” There, I’d done it. I made the right choice. I was free from the temptation. No more stories growing in my mind, begging to be verbailized.
“Then, what makes a cobweb?”