Have you ever sat back and thought about the fairy tales that we tell our children. The Grimm Brothers were most definitely grim and their tales are frightening to me even as a grown adult. Think about it. Hansel and Gretel; the story of a creepy old woman, who steals children, and takes them into the woods. Feeding them like cattle, getting them ready for slaughter, to become a winter’s stew. Snow White; a young girl whose mother dies and father marries a wicked woman who eventually becomes queen. After the father dies of a “suspicious death” she decides to kill Snow White to become the fairest woman in all the land. Let’s be honest, that is a shitty Step Mother. She takes the cake compared to the step Moms I see on the Maury Povich show that are sleeping with their step daughters boyfriends.
The reason this popped into my mind recently is because I realized that I tell scary stories to my children as well. The tales I tell are specifically geared to get my kids to do the things that I want them to do. They are cautionary tales designed to scare the shit out of them and make my life easier. I’m not going to lie. This was a gem passed down to me from my mother, who had it passed down from her Mother. I am sure the stories are an oral history account of how screwed up my family tree truly is.
If you have children, you know how hard it is to get them to go to bed, and stay in bed. It is a monumental task of perseverance. Who is going to be the last one standing? Who will survive the game of Chicken? In order to get my Mother to go to bed my Grandmother told my mom that she could sleep in her room on the floor. She did however say, “But, be careful and watch for the rats.” “What rats?” my mother asked. “The rats that live under my bed,they come out at night” stated my grandmother. My Mom was cured of her night-time affliction. She slept in her bed from that night on.
My Mom said it was very difficult to get me to go to bed at night as well. I would come out several times a night begging and pleading to sleep in their room. Finally my mother sat me down and told me the story of the little girl who wouldn’t sleep. The girl would get out of her bed and whine and complain. All of the whining and crying was heard by the old woman at the local orphanage. The woman would walk the streets in the evening searching for bad little children who wouldn’t go to sleep. My Mom told me that if I wasn’t going to go to sleep she would have to put me on the door step and the old woman from the orphanage would come to our house and steal me away. The woman then sold the children to farms. Apparently I wasn’t afraid of this and I called my mother’s bluff. My mom did the only thing she could; she put me on the door step in the middle of the night and locked the door. Child abuse you say? No, mastermind I think. My Mom said I cried for about a minutes and then told her if she let me back in I would go straight to bed. I did, and I never called her bluff again.
I found that this system of stories and fear could be a powerful parenting tool. As my family grew, I experienced some of the same issues my mother had. My daughter and youngest son would throw terrible temper tantrums. They are very close in age and when one would start a tantrum, the other felt it necessary to join in and attempt to raise the dead with their shrill screams and stomping feet. I was sitting there unsure of what to do and right in mid fit I saw a raccoon walking across the back yard. I said, “Look. Do you know who that is?” My children immediately stopped and turned. “Yes, Mommy, it’s a raccoon.” “No, that is Poopy the Coon” I said. “Who is Poopy the Coon?” they asked. Well here is where it got interesting. They both had stopped their fit and sat down to listen to my story.
I began to tell them that Poopy the Coon was a Raccoon that ate bad children. He came out of the woods when he heard them screaming. He would wait by the edge of the grass and listen. If the children began to whine and cry Poopy knew it was time to visit the house and steal the children. They sat still as statues, in sheer fear. What had I done? Was I a prodigy of my Mother, or a tyrant, ruling with threats and fear? Did I care? Hell no! The kids were quiet and the fit was over. I had won the battle, but the war raged on.
Over the years I have made up several scenarios where my kids get eaten by wild animals for misbehaving in the grocery store, stolen by creepy red-faced strangers to get them to hold my hand in the parking lot, and so many more. There is something to be said for the fear factor. As humans, fear drives us to be careful and stay out of harm’s way. I am fully aware that my story telling will never win me the coveted “Mom of the Year” award. But if were being honest not much of what I do will get my name on the list. At some point my children will know that Poopy the Coon is just a nocturnal trash picker, with no ill will toward them. However, until that becomes a reality I will Call on Poopy the Coon to restore the peace and quiet to my home.