“Monsters are only make-believe and pretend. This is your room, the safest place in the whole world.”
BY HARVEY BLUMENTHAL
Long ago, while visiting our children and grandkids in Philadelphia, I winced when our son Bill ordered five year-old Stevie, who had misbehaved, to, “Go to your room!” I kept my mouth shut, knowing not to intercede, and bided my time for a couple days until Bill and Laurie went out for the evening while Grandma Sandy and I babysat. When Stevie did not respond to my reprimand and continued to push his little brother around, I more sternly insisted he take a time-out by sitting on the bottom step of the staircase. Later, with the boys asleep, I told Bill and Laurie about the incident and “innocently” added my feeling that being in his room should always be associated with happy thoughts and experiences, never to be linked with a place of punishment.
I asked Bill’s permission to publish this anecdote only after recently reading Eleanor Roosevelt’s account of ordering her little boy, Johnny, to his room. Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, No Ordinary Time, quotes Mrs. Roosevelt: “…having a feeling that he hadn’t gone, I went into my husband’s study at Hyde Park and found Johnny sitting in his lap, weeping his heart out on his father’s shirt front, and both of them looking equally guilty when I discovered them.”
Maybe young parents, even an Eleanor Roosevelt, can become more easily frazzled and impatient than more seasoned grandparents who no longer face these trying moments day after day.
Our last night of the visit, while laying down with Stevie at bedtime, he told me sometimes he cannot fall asleep, and that he was frightened of the dark and of monsters. “There are no monsters,” I reassured him. “Monsters are only make-believe and pretend. This is your room, the safest place in the whole world. And when you lie down at night, you can think of all the good things that happened today, and about all the people who love you. And I especially want you to think of Grandma Sandy and me, and how much fun we had this visit, and about what fun things we can do next time.”
Ain’t it wonderful to be a loving grandparent? I’m thinking, perhaps fifty years from now, Stevie will reassure his own grandchild about the dark and about monsters, and in some mystical way, my love will be there with them.
Harvey Blumenthal is a retired physician in Tulsa, Oklahoma and loving grandfather. He has published many essays and memoirs. He served two years (1970-72) active duty as a Navy physician during the Vietnam War.