Monday, September 14, 2009

Monsters (by Billy Coffey)


Our home of four has recently become a home of five—father, mother, daughter, son, and monster.

The former four seem to have the run of the house, able to roam and ramble both upstairs and down, inside and out, and in all hours of the day. The monster, however, seems strangely confined to both the small hours of the night and the smaller confines of my son’s closet.

For the last two weeks he has awakened my wife and I with shaky cries of fear, pleading for rescue. I will toss the covers back and trudge into his bedroom, where I’ll settle him down with a big hug. In a few minutes he will yawn, flutter his eyes a few times, and drift back to sleep. I do this without thinking. After all, I should know what I’m doing. I’ve been on the other side of that hug.

My monster arrived when I was his age. I woke one night to the shifting sounds of something in the bowels of my closet. It happened again the next night, but this time the noise was loud enough to even penetrate my cotton cocoon. That’s when I started to cry. And when my father woke up.

I remember him coming into my room and giving me a hug, softly talking to me until I yawned, fluttered my eyes a few times, and fell back asleep. He did it without thinking. Because he’d been on the other side of that hug, too.

My father made the trip down the hallway and into my bedroom countless times over the next few years. He never once complained or hesitated, and I always felt better afterwards. But Dad never offered the one thing I most needed. He never told me what I desperately needed to hear.

He never said there are no such things as monsters.

I learned later on that the sounds coming from my closet were the result of gravity mixed with an assortment of poorly stacked toys. The Thing I saw in the corner of my room? Just the moonlight shining on a discarded jacket. And all those guttural sounds I thought were the churning stomach of a hungry ogre were just the furnace turning on and off.

In high school monsters became a source of entertainment rather than dread. Freddy Kruger, Jason, and Pinhead? Not only were they not scary, they were sort of ridiculous. And they always got theirs in the end.

It was during my brief flirtation with college that I finally learned monsters weren’t real. They were instead misunderstood aberrations, products of a poor childhood or a few misfired brain synapses. They deserved of our sympathy and pity rather than our fear and anger. It was a notion I found supremely appealing. A world without monsters was a world I could better understand.

But the problem was that I couldn’t.

There was genocide in Rwanda, which left tens of thousands raped and butchered in mere weeks. Then another in Yugoslavia.

And then came 9/11.

I knew then why my father always came to my room in those small hours of the night, why he would hug me and comfort me until I found sleep but never said there were no monsters in the world. And it’s the same reason why I spare my son those same words.

It would be a lie.

There really are monsters in this world.

They’re not slimy or horned, they look like us. Men and women who live in the black places of the soul, who seek to imprison rather than set free, who murder and rape in the name of God. To deny their existence is to give them power, and to spare them our anger and determination only lengthens the shadow they cast over our world.

As I write these words it’s both dark and late. I can hear my son shuffling in his bed. A sniffle makes its way through his door and around the corner to my ears. In a moment he will cry out softly for me, and I will answer. I will sit by his bed and hold him until he’s asleep again, and I’ll leave the hall light on just in case.

I will not tell him what he wants to hear. The truth, even at his age, is better. Like me, my son will believe in monsters. And like me, he will be raised to fight them.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at What I Learned Today and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

26 comments:

Denise said...

Your children are truly blessed to have you as their dad.

Shark Bait said...

And now I'm going to have nightmares after seeing that picture. Thanks!

My brother used to give his son a spray bottle with water and liquid airfreshener in it to spray around in the air when the monsters came out, because they were afraid of the smell.

Anne L.B. said...

May the Lord protect your precious little boy every hour of the day and night, so that he does not face monsters.

John Cowart said...

I think it was Stephen King who said, "There is no monster under my bed, and if I keep my feet under the covers, it won't get me".

Joyce said...

I hate that there are monsters in the world but I agree...best to learn how to 'fight' them. Another great story. I think I write that every time I comment.

Helen said...

I think you are right. I also think that he might feel even worse if he thought he wasn't being taken seriously, that his fears weren't "real". God bless you both.

April said...

Being afraid of monsters at a young age can be very frightening, so I pray that your son will be fearful no more. With you by his side, I'm certain that will give him the courage to overcome ANYTHING that tries to stand in his way!

Jenna said...

Awesome as usual!

I am going through this right now with my 4 year old son--now I feel almost wrong for trying to convince him there are no monsters :).

Luckily lots of cuddles in the middle of night do the trick for now.

Beth said...

In our house it's always "bad dreams," not monsters. And as long as they drag their pillow and sheets to Mommy and Daddy's room and pass out on the floor, they're fine. Something about the tangible proximity and protection of Mom and Dad that keep the bad stuff away...but I have to give credit to my kids for being brave enough to creep out of the bed, out of the room and not even wake up mom and dad sometimes! I think they're going to deal with their monsters very well someday.

lynnrush said...

Very nice!

Doug Spurling said...

The truth, even at his age, is better. Like me, my son will believe in monsters. And like me, he will be raised to fight them.

And the Truth shall set you free. Fight on Mr Coffey and little knight.

Billy, such wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

jasonS said...

You speak the truth sir.

Totally off the true subject, but I thought monsters were trying to make the kids laugh now? I love that movie.

Bridget Chumbley said...

Your children are truly blessed, Billy. Another awesome post...thank you!

Mark said...

great post

Karin said...

When I told my children, and more recently grandchildren, that I also had the same fears when I was little, it seemed to be comforting to them that I survived and got to be this OLD!! Hugs and kisses sure help!!

Chris Sullivan said...

You are right. Monsters are very real and it is more important for us to learn how to fight them than to learn not to fear them.

FaithBarista Bonnie said...

You're a great daddy, Billy. Sounds like you had a great daddy, yourself.

Now, you're passing on some daddy wisdom over to little Billy -- one day, it will be passed down to his little ones.

TJ has been having a string of nightmares too. It's hard.

The real monsters later are gonna be harder to help our kids get through. That's for sure. (sigh)

Me? I was afraid of the "ghosts" dancing on my walls. I didn't know until older that it was the reflections of car lights driving by in the street in the back of our house.

Sea Glass said...

Please to to my post of 9/10. You just now expanded on my writing. Yes there are monsters in this world, real and imiginary. When I was little, having my dauchund Cid in bed always chased the "monsters" away. After all, who was going to get me when my dog was protecting me!

Joanne Sher said...

Amazingly compelling and engaging. And SO true. Wow.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Brilliant.

Heather of the EO said...

"he will be raised to fight them."

Kids need the truth. You're an amazing REALLY amazing Dad!

Another great post, Billy. Thank you.

Beth E. said...

I used to have nightmares and believed that there were monsters in my bedroom. I sympathize with your son!

I wish that getting rid of the monsters in this world was as easy as it was for my dad to get rid of the monsters in my room.

Praying for peaceful rest for your son.

Tina Dee Books said...

What a neat daddy! I'm so sure your wife looks in on you interacting with the kids and whispers a prayer of thanks.

Thank you, Billy!

Candace Jean July 16 said...

I never really believed there were monsters, but always used them as an excuse for that extra bit of lovin' from my dad. Now I know they really do exist, and even at my ripe old age, I'd love to have him hold me and calm my fears. I didn't necessarily want the monsters to go away - I just wanted to make sure Dad was there. I miss him.

vanityofvanities said...

It's funny; I was never afraid of monsters until I heard on TV that other kids were. Then I started imagining them under my bed. I'd turn off the light, run, and jump as fast as I could under my covers.

Because, you know, monsters couldn't get you if you were under the covers. But watch those feet... keep 'em tucked.

...

I think this was a beautiful and relevant story. There are real monsters all around us, but we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.

Laura said...

For my Jeffrey, it's mirrors. That's where the monster is. For example, he can stay upstairs playing Wii by himself, no problem; but when it's shower time, mom must sit outside the door for moral support. When I point out this contradiction, he tells me how creepy the mirror is.

I have the same problem, I tell him. I don't like what looks at me out of there either!

Seriously, this too shall pass. And I'm with you. Hugs go a long way to avoid therapy in the future.