Of Children and Monsters

Cartoon werewolf howling at the moon

Something special happened last night at bedtime. My son Iz, who is nearly 6, is terrified of werewolves. He’s afraid to go to any part of the house by himself after the sun goes down because he’s worried that there will be werewolves. And recently they’ve started visiting him in dreams, too.

At bedtime last night, we were talking about all the reasons he shouldn’t be afraid of werewolves. He said to me, “Mom, I KNOW werewolves aren’t real and I tell myself that they aren’t real, but then a different part of my brain says… What if they are real?” He started to cry while he was saying this.

I told him that there are different parts of his brain and the part that’s afraid of werewolves can’t believe yet that they aren’t real. So until he’s old enough to believe it with his whole brain, he can stop telling that part of his brain that they aren’t real, and instead tell it that there are rules for werewolves, even in the stories. Monsters like vampires and werewolves and things can’t come into your house without an invitation, right? So that’s a rule to keep you safe, even in the world of stories. We talked about several ways he was safe, including love and God and the iron gate and concrete walls that go all around our house – and that Daddy and I would never, ever, ever invite a werewolf into the house.

He accepted these reasons, but he was still tense and anxious. I told him that even Voldemort couldn’t go into Harry Potter’s home without an invitation because of the protection of Lily’s love, and did he think I loved him as much as Lily loved Harry?

I said, “What would I do if I saw a werewolf? If I were washing dishes late one night and I saw a werewolf outside, what would I do?” And I was about to tell him a story about how I would chase away the werewolf and keep my kids safe with my fierceness – but then I realized that that would be a story about peace through violence – I’d be using violence or the threat of violence to keep my kids safe. And that’s not the kind of story I want to tell. So I pivoted.

“What would I do? Would I invite that werewolf into our house? Nooooo! I might offer it a hamburger! I might offer it some water! Maybe she has a kid werewolf in a cave somewhere! So I could give her a hamburger and say, Hey, come back tomorrow when you’re a person again, and we can play games!”

Iz said, “Or a sandwich! In case we don’t have the right kind of bread for a hamburger, we could give him a sandwich!” He shrugged one shoulder and smiled a little as if to say, “Be realistic, Mom – we never have hamburger buns in the house.”

“Yes!” I said. “That’s a great idea! We usually have some lunch meat around. Or if we don’t, we could make a peanut butter and jelly! We always have that around!”

“Yes!” And J and C, who are almost 8, got involved and we all continued talking about all the ways we could care for the werewolf – maybe if someone cared for him, he wouldn’t have to go hunting at all! And Iz started talking about how we could make friends with the werewolf, even! His plan became quite detailed.

We talked about how it is important to maintain our boundaries, too – even when the werewolf is our friend, we still can’t invite him into our gates or our house, because werewolves are unpredictable and he might hurt us without realizing what he’s doing. So we can take care of him and be friends with him, but also keep boundaries in place to keep ourselves safe, too.

After a little while of this discussion, Iz turned to me beaming and said, “Mom! I’m not even scared any more. Now when I think of the werewolves, I just think, Oh! We can be friends!”

I am happy to report that he went to sleep easily and slept soundly all night.

Peace through justice to the rescue, Friends. Amen.

Published by Nikki Holland

I am a Quaker wife, mother, pastor, and writer. I work as the country branch director of a fabulous NGO in Belize City and I recently graduated with an MDiv from Earlham School of Religion. I love my family, and I love my community.

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