My son came to me last night. It was just after he’d gone to bed. "Daddy, I’m afraid." He doesn’t use the word 'afraid' when he’s stalling. Sparrow also doesn’t normally have the intensity of looks he had in his eye; I knew something was up.
"Momo is going to get me."
Here’s the thing. I banned YouTube. In fact, I’m curating the kid’s screen time hard! Momo shouldn’t be able to get him, Teen Titans barely can - I made damn sure of it!
"The kids at school told me about it...him. Her. Which is it?"
I told him it is a sculpture, it’s art, and art should never hurt maliciously.
Despite the fact he didn't know what maliciously meant, he nodded, cuddled me close (sure to rub his warm cheek against mine) and remained in my arms for a long time.
Madness! I explained to Sparrow all I knew about Momo, a sculpture that has gone viral with murderous intent but is not nearly as cool as Chucky, and is a perversion of what it’s sculptor intended it to be. He’s still afraid, in spite of my promise of swords and ceramics and of prayers and angels with AK47’s guarding his room.
I’ve had anxiety all my life, from mild to fetal-on-the-kitchen-floor-in-a-puddle-of-my-own-salty-tears. I’ve been there. Stress is fear of the unknown. But it’s more than that; it’s fear of what I perceive to be in the unknown, in the dark caverns of a reality that hasn't and may not ever happen.
What I have realised is my imagination is my best (imaginary) friend and my worst enemy. It goes to places beyond reality when trying to predict the future or think about what is ahead. I naturally go to the most horrific, sci-fi, blockbuster, Shakespearean tragedy scenario, and plan for it.
What you think about matters. The places you travel in your mind matter. I have to train myself, not to be prepared for the worst-case scenario because it doesn’t bear dwelling on - but to expect the best case scenario and live in the faith and hope of it. It’s tricky - but it's far more friendly to my mind (and my wife's').
My imagination, your imagination, our imaginations, are a gift. They're truly remarkable and just one of the things that separate us from 'the beast'. But we have to wrangle them as if they themselves were beasts. Tame your imagination, and it will create wondrous things, places and things with you - teach your kids to do the same.
But gosh darn it! Don't let your imagination take the lead. I've been to those caverns. They're dark and full of frightening things...