Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fear Factor

Lately Eliot has developed some, shall we say, irrational fears. Irrational in the sense that these anxieties don't really make any sense to his parents or even other adults. It all started with the witch doll in October, and has slowly gained momentum in the last month.

Now, a witch doll I can understand. She was green and mean looking, you know, with the frown and the hairy mole and all. She was straddling a broom with her skinny striped legs and who wouldn't be afraid of that? And the next fear, of my cousin Kevin, made some sense. Kevin suffered a horrific leg injury that put him in a contraption like this. We called it his 'cage'. Eliot didn't want to swing from it or anything, but didn't take much notice of it either. The cage has been removed and Kevin is getting around with a cane now, but whenever Eliot sees him he completely loses it - screaming, crying, climbing up my body, pounding heart, the works. Once we calm him down, he's fine, he'll even talk to Kevin, but at the next family gathering the freak-out repeats.

But what didn't make sense was when he went completely bonkers over a jumbo pack of Double AA batteries. Really? I cannot find one reasonable explanation for this. The screaming and the clawing and the writhing were all present once again. I can only guess that he may have seen a frightening ghost at the same time the multi-pack was produced from a Walgreens bag. This happened at my grandparents house, a place known for its history of paranormal activity, so I suppose that is possible. But reasonable? Not so much.

There are other fears that are weird but understandable. That sort of creepy zoologist puppet at the Zoomagination Station at the zoo, I can see that. The illustrations in the You are Creative and You are Brave books? They are a little intense. For Eliot, these books are more like You are Scared Shitless.

The hard part is not knowing what will be scary. Thunder? He doesn't look up from his puzzle. My sister Laura popping up from behind the couch? He laughs his face off. Baby dolls with eyes that follow you around the room? He falls in love with them. So when the two of us sat down to watch some Sesame Street Old School Volume 1, I didn't give it a thought. I had heard that it might not be appropriate for today's preschoolers (this is a little something called foreshadowing), but I wasn't completely sure why. I figured if we watched it together and talked about it, we would be okay.

Like for example, in the segment about where milk comes from when the narrator says something to the effect of, "Mother cows make far more milk than their calves could ever drink..." and I piped in with, "Eliot, that's baloney, mother cows only make more milk than their calves can drink because they are forcibly milked twice a day. The narrator doesn't know what he's talking about." I'm not even vegan. And I have to admit, I'm pretty sure that most of the illustrators working on the cartoons were smoking the drugs. A quick search of YouTube and you'll be all set for your next acid trip.

But I digress. I thought that would be the extent of the inappropriateness of the videos, and otherwise it would be fun for him and a trip to nostalgia town for me. And it was. Until this:

Now for me, the creepiness factor comes when the guy opens the trapdoor and says "Two turtles". First of all, he kind of looks like my dad. Secondly, the face he makes seems really inappropriate for children's television programming. But it's not until the end that the horror show really begins. The baker falls down a flight of stairs and his pies go a'flying. The first time Eliot saw this he referred to the baker as the 'Pizza Man' (after an animatronic doll my grandparents put out at Christmas, one that is wearing a similar hat to the baker). He asked to watch this specific part again 2 more times. But on the third time, he lost his marbles. He jumped into my arms and I fumbled with the remote to try to turn the TV off, and covered his eyes in a desperate attempt to shield him from the abomination on the screen.

But there is hope. Eliot has language now and he is using it. He's not really able to give responses when asked, "Why? What is so abhorent about double AAs?" But as I'm sure he will be required to do in therapy, he has taken to listing his fears for us in this way: "Fraid: Pizza Man Stairs. Witch Doll Pumpkin Patch. Zoo Doll. Kevi Knee. Creative Book. Brave Book." And then he makes his fake scared cry noise and we talk about it. So we try and reassure him that it is okay to be afraid, that those things cannot hurt him, that we are here to keep him safe. And then we stay awake at night hoping that we can protect him from that damn witch doll and her zoologist henchmen.


Kelly said...

my nephew when he was about 2 was afriad of the paramount (I think) logo at the beginning of movies.. the mountain with the stars flying around it.. he'd absolutely freak!!

Emi said...

holy shit! that sesame street video took me WAY back. so way back I got a little afraid...

Jason Toon said...

Veronica used to get totally freaked out by this Karl Marx book I have - more for his bushy beard and stern glare than for any ideological reasons.

JJ said...

Hey, batteries never leaving the face of the earth, only to fester in a Granite City landfill is quite frightening... and Sesame Street? Syl watched her first episode last night and may I dare say, this is what drove me to ingesting things I shouldn't have ingested as a disgruntled teen? Creepy! and full of bad wardrobe choices. I say Eliot's fears are justified. Kids know WAY more about the reality of things than we do, maybe he's seeing things for what they really are!
He's so deep.

James Boehmer said...

i'm surprised that he wasn't freaked out by the opening number montage... i am remembering why i stopped taking acid. thanks heather. and thanks eliot.

Valerie said...

I got Sesame Street Old School Volume II (whatever the late 70s edition is) for Christmas! Besides the whole Gordon thing with "hey, little Sally, wanna come back to my apartment for milk and cookies?" thing going in volume 1, there's also the blatant shoplifting/apple-snatching scene during a segment on counting in Volume II. Not to mention the Muppets seem to argue and wail on each other a lot.

Allison said...

Oh...taking me back!
I always wondered why some creep was keeping 2 turtles in a box in his floor.