Thursday, 18 July 2013

Before I Wake

07:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , , , 4 comments
The reason we fear the space under the bed is linked to our need to feel secure when we sleep.  When we surrender to the leaden eyelids, the urge to drool freely, we submit to the vulnerability of the unconscious state.  There are numerous visual examples of the dangers of submitting to Nyx under unsafe conditions. Ideally we'd employ a personal guard to sit beside us while we sleep, fanning us on hot nights and tucking the duvet around our toes in the winter; always ready with a glass of water or a bookmark.

Consideration of this nightly trepidation reminds me of the ubiquitous children's prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take

According to the faithful Wiki, a version of this prayer was first recorded in 1711.  To put it into context, this prayer appeared just after the Great Plague of the 1660s.  This was the last in a wave of bubonic plagues to hit the UK since the fourteenth century.  This is the plague, carried by fleas, which would most likely kill you in four days once contracted.  As the plague began to peter out, its terror was replaced by the Great Fire of London.  What I'm getting at is the unavoidable fact that little'uns heading to bed weren't especially worried about monsters.  Plague-infested flea-ridden cats and the smell of burnt toast were more than adequate to scare the bejeezus out of the squiggles during the Age of Enlightenment.

At this point I'll link to a blog post about children's books that deal with death.  Titans Terrors and Toys have reviewed That's Not Your Mommy Anymore and Grandpa Won't Wake Up.  The titles alone are enough to make you reach for your wallet.  These stories remind me of a book I took out of the library to read to children at the Al Fresco Festival in May: Tadpole's Promise. I went to the library with the intention of finding a new Tony Ross book as he was one of my daughter's favourite illustrators when she was young.  What I didn't expect was to read a tragedy which was so poignant it still makes me desperately sad to think on it.  I don't know what effect it would have had on other people's children because I didn't want to risk the court cases.  The adults and teens I showed it to were incredibly disturbed by its contents.  It's cathartic in the true Aristotelian sense.

This catharsis is akin to a mental workout.  It allows children and adults to imagine dangerous or tragic scenarios and prepare themselves mentally by conjuring up a variety of methods to deal with potential threats.  It has been noted that those who are most prone to vivid fantastical thoughts are also the most creative.  Leaving anxiety and worry aside, it's possible that the repeated fantasies of dangerous scenarios actually allow folks to respond more quickly when in real danger as they have, in effect, practiced for just such an event in their mind. 

Therefore, my sage advice to parents this week is as follows: apply liberal doses of terror at bedtime.  Scare your young'uns.  Tell them about the shadow-vomit that lives in dirty socks and crawls up noses to lay eggs behind the eyes.  Insist that they keep their eyes tightly shut in case the wallpaper fiend detects the glisten of an eyeball and reaches out to papercut them to death.  Finally, tell them that if the monsters do come to get them they only have to whisper the word 'flummoxed' and the horrors will all disappear.  Voila.  You have created your own religion and one tiny zealot.  L Ron Hubbard would be so proud.



Lisa Kelly said...

Tadpole's promise was Patrick's first murder mystery - albeit that the audience know what has happened, but still....

Honestly, he was heartbroken. It took a few weeks of sciencing everything up to explain that it was natural for the frog to eat the butterfly and that in real life they aren't really friends. It got donated swiftly to the school library so other parents can share the joy! ;-)

But children do love the monsters. If they didn't, we'd have no Twits, no woman's head falling off when she at last untied the ribbon and no Snow Queen. And to be fair, I reckon no Bible either - I mean people have to want to read this stuff right.

But thanks for the pointer. I have my copy of the Gashlycrumb Tinies on order :-)

Loved the post xxx

Ashley R Lister said...

I am rushing out today to find a copy of 'Grandpa Won't Wake Up.' It looks hilarious.

Great post,


Colin Davies said...

I have said for ages, "scare the kids, don't teach them about real life"

I remember Hartley Hare tackling the subject of death and it was so disturbing I switched the TV and continued to read "to the Devil a Daughter" by Dennis Wheatley just to calm my 10 year old self down.

Children do not need to deal with emotions until they have to. You don't have to teach them about death through books, that's what pets are for.

Really good post Vicky, as always.

Kathleen Bradean said...

"That's what pets are for." Bwahahahaha. And Grandma too.