On the last Saturday in September, I noticed a lot of activity on the lawn of our across the street neighbors. Throughout the morning, it became more evident what the final result would be, a yard full of life-size replicas of characters from scary movies. By the end of the day, Mike Myers from Halloween, the clown from It, Regan from The Exorcist, Norman’s mother from Psycho, a blood soaked Carrie, and various other nefarious looking creatures were all gazing towards my living room window.
It was really quite impressive, and in my teen years, this would have been the coolest house in the neighborhood. As a mother to three small children, though, it was anything but cool. My anxious five year old daughter with the active imagination had the worst reaction of the three. She talked about it all weekend and refused to go outside. I was dreading Monday morning when we would have to somehow walk across the yard to the car and drive past the scary house.
There were a lot of questions, but no meltdown that morning. She covered her eyes until we passed the house and made me tell her when we had turned off the street. We had our usual morning drive chitchat, and I dropped her off at school. I had almost forgotten about the scary decorations until she got in the car at pickup and started crying. “I don’t want to drive by the scary house. I’m not brave.”
I began racking my brain to come up with a way to approach this. She had every right to be afraid of that house. It was scary, especially for a little girl who had no concept of the characters. So, I decided to discuss the fear of things we don’t know. The only way to not be scared would be to really look at them and know that they aren’t real.
I told her we would get out of the car together and look at them from across the street. “Holding hands?” she asked. “Of course,” I said. So, we stood across the street and started to get to know our new neighbors, the PG-rated versions at least.
What unfolded was a huge opportunity to talk about issues she would encounter for the rest of her life. Carrie’s backstory briefly segued into a lesson about bullies. She felt bad for her and was upset that her dress got ruined. Now, “blood girl” is her favorite.
We also discussed why we wouldn’t ask them to take down the decorations. I explained that just because we are bothered by something that doesn’t mean we should expect anyone to change for us. These neighbors decorate elaborating for all the holidays, and they really seem to enjoy it. I asked her if she wanted someone to demand we tear down our flower bush because they don’t like pink flowers. The answer was, of course, no.
As we walked to the car the next morning, she loudly proclaimed, “There’s nothing scary about those giant dolls! They’re not real! It’s a free country, so they aren’t gonna take them down!” She then explained to me that now that she knows the dolls, they aren’t scary anymore. She repeats this mantra daily, and my hope is that she can carry the idea with her for the rest of her life that knowledge and understanding is power.
As a parent, this incident taught me that every challenge presents a chance for us to learn and grow. We do our children a disservice when we shy away from discussing topics that we think will be too complex for them. They may not understand the entire concept, but one day it will click.
Who knew that Halloween decorations would be the catalyst for such important life lessons?
Thanks, blood girl. You’re the best!