Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Things That Go Bump in the Night rerun

Last weekend's trip away with Walker brought to light that I'm not quite so wise and observant a parent as I thought I was.

On our first trip to the Smokies three years ago, Walker had commented on a rather ferocious looking dog tied to a stake outside a small house as we turned off the main road. He asked if that was "Cujo", a reference to a Stephen King movie he had watched several years ago and decided was too scary. This led to a talk about fantasy things that are scary versus real things that are scary. I made a mental note to monitor his viewing habits a bit more closely. I thought that was the end of it.

Our large family filled all the bedrooms on that trip, and Walker was assigned to a lovely loft, on an air mattress, but with a large television set. This suited him fine, or at least I thought it did until our hosts commented at breakfast that they had found him asleep on their bathroom floor in the wee hours of the morning. After a lecture about respecting the space of others, I again thought that was the end of it. It hadn't occurred to me that the scary movie reference and the intrusion in the private space of our hosts were somehow connected.

Imagine my surprise when we drove past the same small home this year and Walker once again mentioned "Cujo" even though the dog was nowhere in sight. I repeat the same lecture about reality versus fantasy. I make a mental vow to put parental controls on his television and sort through his movies while he's at camp.

Since there were fewer people on this trip, Walker was assigned his own bedroom. A beautiful room overlooking the mountains. The next morning, however, he announced that he really wanted to move to the loft where he had slept before, because his room was "lonely". A lecture about being courteous about assigned accommodations followed. He then brought up the scary dog movie yet again. He also made some references to the house looking much like the church where he had attended a funeral in recent months. Walker presented his case like a trial lawyer, much to the amusement of my son-in-law who struggled mightily with keeping a straight face while Walker and I debated. I lost that battle myself once I caught his eye. Walker was not amused. This was serious, he insisted. Turns out that part of the problem was that he didn't have a television set in his room.

I realized that I wasn't going to win this battle. No matter how nice his accommodations, Walker was miserable, and until he was happy, none of the rest of us were going to be either. A bit of shuffling of rooms followed, and after the swap, Walker regained custody of the television and was once again content. I guess I lost the battle, but it was worth giving up the only room with a bath tub to put the room assignments to rest.

This whole incident kept rattling around in my brain as we drove home. I had thought Walker was certainly mature beyond being fearful of a scary movie he had seen over ten years ago. He is not. I searched my old books on child development, because I remembered some discussion of fears, but I think I'll need a newer book to understand exactly what's going on with him right now. Maybe it was just the television thing. We can work on that...maybe.

I'm so grateful to have in-laws that are also friends as we work through some of the remaining kinks with Walker. Our discussion led to some chatter about our own childhood fears, making the whole incident less embarrassing.

I hope I'll get better at figuring out Walker, and all my family. I hope I'll be kinder and less preachy when there's a problem. I'm thankful for an understanding extended family. I hope maturity will bring Walker peace from his fears. I hope maturity will bring me peace from my own fears.


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