My child scares me. I don't mean I'm concerned about him. My child is sweet and funny and entertaining. He's perfect in his own way. Well, as perfect as a 2-year-old can be.
No, my child actually, unintentionally, scares the crap out of me.
I'm a proud wimp. Even before I was pregnant, I knew kids of all ages could be terrifying. From the creepy fetus in Rosemary's Baby, to the kid who uses lipstick to scrawl "redrum" in The Shining, to the tween unnaturally crawling out of a TV in The Ring, children were scary.
For a good chunk of my 20s, my friends and I watched horror movies once a week. And the more films I watched, the more evidence there was that kids could be really frightening. The Grudge, The Sixth Sense, The Messengers, the list goes on and on; the kids in all these movies were either ghosts or saw ghosts. And although I never really watched a horror movie, but rather saw bits of it while covering my eyes with my hands and peering through the gaps between my fingers, the message was not lost on me.
It wasn't just in movies, either. In real life, I once heard someone tell the creepiest story about how their young daughter regularly saw the ghost of a man with a hat on in their old, thought-to-be-haunted house. Another friend's child repeatedly told her there were people in their fireplace with red eyes.
But after having my son, these scary memories were all but forgotten. We laughed, we played, my son was a blast.
But then he started talking. A lot. And he started telling me things like, "There is a heartbeat knocking at the door."
I'd tell him there isn't.
He'd reply, "Yeah, there is. It's a red heartbeat."
And just like that my heartbeat was knocking at my chest. He was only two. It's not like he had read any Poe. Where was he getting this from?
I didn't know but it was getting worse by the day.
He would run to me, scared, telling me, "Something is saying, 'No, no, no, no, no.'"
Uh, what, what, what, what, what?
And for two weeks he would tell me several times a day: "Kevin is exercising upstairs. Let's go check on him."
I was in no mood to catch a ghost doing Pilates. Or worse, P90X. A strong ghost? No, thank you.
What was next? Was my thermostat going to start diving down before my son told me he sees dead people?
I ain't afraid of no ghosts? I was afraid of all ghosts. Whether they claimed to be friendly like Casper or whether they were health-obsessed, even in the afterlife, like good old, Kevin. But unlike in my 20s, I was the parent now. I had to be brave or at least pretend to be. So I went up the stairs to check on Kevin, shakily calling out his name like Stefon on SNL. "Kevin?" To my relief there was no one exercising in that room, dead or alive.
And that's when I remembered logic.
Kids are like sponges. They absorb things we often overlook. And they're highly imaginative.
I realized that we had a repairman look at something in the room with our dust-covered elliptical days earlier. It turned out his name is Kevin.
And the heartbeat? That came from a sound machine we played for a month at night to help our newborn sleep. The sound machine that we had always set to "heartbeat."
There is a logical reason for everything my son scares me with, be it a guest whose name I have forgotten, a sound effect or a budding imagination. So lesson learned. I need to stop freaking out, put on a brave front and be a grown up. Because unlike the way I watch my horror movies, I can't go through life with my hands over my eyes.
I am still secretly a wimp, though, so I wouldn't mind a little help from my kid. The next time he thinks Kevin is jazzercising in the middle of the night, I'd love it if my son kept that info to himself.
Author of The Booger Fairy, Nishi Goes to India, and several Indian language books for kids, Supriya works as a screenwriter for the Indian production house, Vinod Chopra Films, and blogs about green living and green parenting at www.wadingthroughsoup.blogspot.com