I remember when my daughter finally got too big for the sink. She was lean and long, and came into this world with her tiny muscles flexed. Her mighty legs foreshadowed her inner strength. We knew it was time when she pressed her toes against the far edge of the tub, flexed her miniature quads and glutes, and shot forward to grab the bananas off the counter. After months of straining to reach the bright yellow torpedoes, she found success. The mischievous grin that spread across her face warned us of things to come. It was time to transition her to the ‘big girl’ tub. As most babies do, she preferred the security of tight spaces. Her father was a pro at swaddling from the start, wrapping her up tightly in a plush blanket. He would joke, as he hugged her tiny body against his chest, that he made a baby burrito.
The vast white tub was scary for her. Her arms and legs pinwheeled wildly the first time we set her in the warm water, much of which was on the floor before we were done. Trying desperately to avoid lasting trauma, we filled the tub with toys. I kept my eyes peeled for distractions whenever I went to the store. I remember finding a Dora the Explorer bathtub doll that would swim when it got wet. My daughter was a devotee of Dora’s adventures and could be heard each morning shouting “Backpack! Backpack!” I thought the purchase was evidence of brilliant parenting. Dora’s first voyage in the tub was an unprecedented success. All other toys were immediately relegated to the foot, as my daughter splashed about with her new friend. My victory over her tub aversion was short-lived, though. We were awakened in the middle of the night by her terrified screams. I rushed across the hall and lifted her out of her crib, checking for broken bones and cuts as I held her close and rocked. Through her sobs, I made out the word monster. I told her there were no monsters. Turning on the lights, I opened the closet doors but she would not be consoled. ‘Monster! Monster!’, she cried pointing toward the hallway. I rocked her as I walked toward the hall. She clung to me like a spider monkey facing a puma. She wore herself out crying and fell asleep on my shoulder, her wet cheek blanketing my neck. I was standing in the hall trying to figure out what had scared her so, when I heard it. It whirred at first, then a cold, sharp tapping. Whirr, tap, tap, tap. I followed the noise to the bathroom where I found Dora on her side, legs and arms outstretched. The censors had somehow been tripped and the doll had started swimming in the empty tub. I tried to explain there were no monsters. She certainly was too young to understand what was making the noise. She was convinced it was a monster. Of course, I knew the circuit was just wet. Once she had the monster story in her head, she just wouldn’t believe anything else. And so, we vanquished every monster until she was old enough to understand. In this case, not wanting to ruin her beloved Dora, I set my daughter back in bed and quietly took the toy to the garage.
While you are probably too old to think that there are monsters under your bed, the truth is we all have monsters. Mostly, they are in your head. They are the worries about what could happen, the what-ifs and why-nots. They are the painful rehashing of past events. They are the fears you can’t seem to let go of no matter how much evidence to the contrary you have. They are the false, self-limiting beliefs you hold. They are old voices telling old lies. Just as we have courage and compassion when helping children to see that the monsters are in their heads, we can have that same courage and compassion in confronting our own monsters. We can decide to live in the present and not waste it worrying about a fictional future. We can let go of a past that we cannot change. We can look at the evidence that our fears are unfounded. We can recognize that a negative voice in our head is never our own voice and it is never truthful. Isn’t it time to turn on the lights, look under the bed, and put the monsters in the garage?
I selected his picture of my daughter’s second birthday. She is clinging to her aunt after meeting the large (and I thought loveable) rodent who tried to wish her a Happy Birthday. It took about 2 hours to convince her that he wasn’t a monster. Eventually she even shook his hand.