Have you ever seen the Sesame Street martians?
About a month ago, Nora watched a YouTube video with them in it, and she’s been talking about them ever since. For the first couple of days she mostly just talked about how they say, “Yep, yep, yep” and “were being silly.” Then she asked to watch them again and saw this video with Bert and Ernie. Just a little bit in, she asked to hold my hand. Then, she wanted to turn it off and watch Elmo instead. This happened a couple more times over the next few days, where she would ask to watch them and then not be able to. About the third or fourth time, it occurred to me that she was scared.
She was sitting in my lap, fidgeting forward toward the computer. I watched her face as the video started and just before the martians appeared, it tensed. Her brow furrowed. Her lips tightened. She leaned back into me hard as if trying to bury herself in my chest. “Hold mama’s hand.”
“Are you scared, Nora?” I really wasn’t sure. She asked to watch them. She knew what was going to happen, yet she acted upset each time they appeared.,
“Uh-huh. Turn martians off; watch Elmo instead.” After that I didn’t give in when she asked to watch them. I was worried it might grow into something worse. But it did anyway.
One day, two and a half weeks ago, she was dragging her feet on bedtime. She wanted to go to the bathroom, over and over; she needed water. Needed to hold mama’s hand; needed to hold dada’s hand. Chris was home that night and it took us together nearly two hours to get her to sleep. The next day, she started saying things like, “The martians can’t get you” and “it’s too dark.” Now, she won’t get herself out of her bed at night anymore, crying instead. Three nights ago, Chris and I awoke at 5:30 to the most awful, blood-curdling scream we have ever heard.
I didn’t realize that fear, especially at nighttime would start so soon. We’ve tried a lot of things: leaving on extra lights; talking about puppets (and explaining that’s what they are); telling and showing her there are no martians here, that they are at home (she added at home “doing milk with their mommies”); having her watch them again and talking about how silly and nice they are…nothing really seems to be working.
And then I got (what I hope will be) a great idea. I asked Nora if she wanted to be a martian for Halloween. She said yes, so now I’m pondering the logistics of sewing a simple martian costume. I’m hoping the costume will help her to understand that they aren’t real. Anyone have any other suggestions?