It's almost Halloween, so spooky things abound (like my face when I woke up this morning. The bags under my eyes could have held ten pounds of Halloween candy. Ugh!).
As parents, we're always the ones reassuring our kids that things aren't really as scary as they seem. There are no monsters in the closet. There are no zombies in the backyard. The Woosta-Wah Fart Smeller is just something your brother made up. We're the dispellers of myths, the banishers of fears, the reassurers that everything is going to be all right.
But when something makes us panic, we can't usually count on our kids to return the favor. In fact, they're the cause of the paranoia, more often than not - like when these five freakout-inducing situations occur.
"I feel like I'm gonna throw up." Nothing can bring my good mood screeching to a halt faster than a vomiting child. I start praying like a priest at an exorcism, hoping against hope that it's just a one-time thing. "It must be something you ate!" I say brightly, as though saying it out loud will make it true. It's just that when one child starts, it inevitably spreads to the rest of the household like a chain of diarrhea dominoes, including me - which means that more often than not, I'm trying not to heave while cleaning up someone else's bodily fluids. No bueno. Stomach viruses are a nightmare - no, they're worse.
A call from the school. When the caller ID shows that my kids' school is calling, you better believe I'm steeling myself to receive some sort of disheartening news. Is somebody sick? Is somebody hurt? Is someone in trouble? Did someone say "penis" in his Kindergarten classroom? In five years of having school-aged children, I've never once had a phone call from there that was like, "Hey, we just wanted to tell you that your kids are fantastic and they're our favorite students and we're wondering what your amazing parenting secrets are?"
An unsettling noise from the other room. It might be a crash. Or a splash. Or a thud. Or a gasp, or an "uh-oh." Whatever it is, it's never a good sign - especially if it's followed by dead silence. Because you just know that it's some heinous mess, or a valuable object shattered into a bazillion pieces, and that right about now your kid is staring at it wide-eyed, trying to figure out how to fix it before Mom and Dad find out.
An embarrassing question. You're going along about your day, everything is normal, and then bam! - your kid drops a bombshell, asking a question you're so not ready to answer. Whether it's an unexpected inquiry about the birds and the bees or, "Mommy, what's a whore?", you've got to work through the blind panic that rips through you and come up with a reasonable, age-appropriate answer. (Just don't attempt to illustrate your point via hand gestures, like I did. Learn from my mistakes.)
When kids say the darndest things. Along those same lines, we have the lovely tidbits that kids interject at the most inopportune (read: embarrassing) times. As we grow, we develop a social filter that keeps us from saying these things - but before that filter is in place, you never know when your child is going to say something (loudly, natch) that will leave you utterly mortified, wishing that you had a roll of duct tape handy. One of my kids told his teacher that she reminded him of a Muppet. One announced to a crowded lobby that I had pooped that morning. One questioned the gender of our waitress (re-peat-ed-ly). They have a knack for creating awkward situations that you, as a parent, must then stumble your way out of. Talk about nerve-wracking.
Our kids are scared of things that are easily remedied - just a reassuring pat on the back or some "monster repellant" (water in an old spray bottle or something) and they're good to go. But the fearful scenarios they can lead us into are far more tricky. At least they're funny in retrospect.
... Well, sometimes.