Toddlesworth has reached in important and unexpected milestone just in time for Halloween. We are a pretty macabre family: we watch The Walking Dead, design Murder Mysteries, and craft creepy specimen jars containing dead fairies. I even gave all of my friends and family zombie penguins for Christmas one year. It is not surprising then, that Toddlesworth has seen his share of scary things. But only in the past week did he begin to name them as such. Last week he started saying 'sombie!' and now he will specify "sdarry sombie!" "oooh, sdarry!" Saturday we went to a Halloween themed art show. Toddlesworth would be sure to point out all of the creepy costumes and décor an tell me they were scary. He would do this while carrying around one of the Styrofoam skull decorations, proclaiming it to be scary too.
When zombies were on the tv screen recently, he clung to his father and begged not to be put down. He has watched Paranorman a half-dozen times. While it is definitely not a movie for babies, he has always enjoyed it and watched it the entire way through. On this most recent viewing, however, he used the sheet blanketing him to cover his face and quake in fear and tell me it was scary. Repeatedly. And not during the scenes with the zombies/supernatural things. See, the other thing is, he isn't actually afraid of the movie. He is just learning what *should* be scary, and how to respond to it, by playing pretend. We play zombie chase now, too. "Uh, oh, mommy is a zombie! You'd better run!" I will say, chasing after him with a pronounced zombie gait and pose. He will gasp, and say "Sdarry sombie! ooh no!" and run away, checking back every few seconds with exaggerated fright to make sure I am still chasing him. If he gets tired or if the game does actually begin to bother him, he will turn to me, reach out to be picked up and say "Mommy?" and as quickly as that, all his fears, real or pretend, evaporate.
If not universal, the love of horror is widespread. As long as humans are able to feel safe, they can enjoy being afraid. I am happy to introduce Toddlesworth to the world of horror enjoyment, and Lord Covington and I will be his safe place from which to enjoy the fear for as long as necessary.