petite anglaise

April 6, 2005

fuzzy logic

Filed under: Tadpole rearing — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:54 pm

I am lying on my tummy on the living room floor, making a picture with my fuzzy felts. The scratchy carpet tiles make my bare legs itch.

I like playing games on the khaki green and beige squares: it’s a bit like a giant game of snakes and ladders. I sometimes hop across the room, trying to land only on the green squares. If I land on a beige one by accident, the monster which lives in the dark, shadowy space behind the sofa will come out and get me. So I’m very careful.

My face is bent close to the sticky fuzzy felts’ board so that I can see what I am doing. I am four years old and no-one has realised that I need to wear glasses yet.

The telephone trills and mummy steps into the hall to answer it. I can see her through the doorway. She has her back to me and she is playing with the spiral cord with her free hand. It sounds like she is talking to daddy.

I am sorting through the pieces of felt for long yellow bits to use as sunbeams, when I am suddenly aware of a movement in the corner of the room, down by the skirting board behind the standard lamp.

It’s the plug. It’s moving on its own again.

I want to cry out and make mummy turn around, but I don’t seem to be able to make any noise at all. Not even a little squeak. I want to get up and run away, but I am like fuzzy felt, firmly stuck to a velcro board.

The plug silently detaches itself from the socket in the wall, and turns its three-pronged face towards me, its prey. It slithers forward, head raised, pulling the wire taut in its wake, until the prongs are very close to my face. Rearing up like a snake, it is poised to strike…

As a child, I had a rather overactive imagination. The plug and socket scenario, and the shape on the end of the radiator next to my bed, which I thought looked like a face, were recurring themes. Short-sightedness didn’t help matters. In the darkness, objects always seem more sinister, but when your eyes make all the edges vague and fuzzy, it is ten times worse. The dressing gown dangling from a hook on the back of my bedroom door, harmless by day, by night became a sentinel standing guard in the doorway so I couldn’t get out.

Tadpole is just starting to feel afraid of things, I think. Every time she walks into her bedroom, the first thing she does is close the double doors to the walk-in wardrobe where all our clothes hang, and where the hoover lurks in the shadows, if someone has left it ajar. She used to play inside that cupboard, but not any more. Whenever she hears a noise from another apartment, like footfalls on the parquet floors above us, or workmen sanding the walls next door, she stops what she’s doing and looks at me, eyes wide with fear. And yet a couple of weeks ago she would have been oblivious to these sounds.

At night, I hear her whimper in her sleep or cry out, occasionally waking herself up. My mummy radar, tuned in to every little sound she makes whether I like it or not, wakes me instantly.

I know I can’t really protect her from her own, fledgling imagination. I know that a vivid imagination is a wonderful thing, and I dare to hope she will lose herself in books, like I did as a child, and write fantastical stories when she is at school.

But despite knowing all these things, I creep into her room, anxious not to rouse her if she is still sleeping, and murmur noises of reassurance, wishing I had the power to keep the monsters at bay and make her dream of shiny, happy things.

And definitely not plugs and sockets.


  1. It’s okay, they’re two pin plugs over there, so they probably look less like faces… possibly…

    “Every time she walk into her bedroom” – you *are* turning French, aren’t you? Leaving off the s! :wink:

    Comment by witho — April 6, 2005 @ 1:31 pm

  2. When my little one has a nightmare, mercifully rarely, I tuck her back up and sit on her bed whispering some of her favourite words: dancing, pretty, party, tutu, cinderella, etc – in the hope of steering her dreams towards happier things. She has a lovely imagination already, bless her.

    Incidentally they don’t go in for much imaginative stuff, story writing etc once they hit primary school here (it’s all deadly serious) so you might have to encourage that one at home.

    Comment by l'autre — April 6, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

  3. I think fear is really part of the natural process that makes us get aware of the real world. I was afraid of dark till I was 8 and have memories of that, you know this kind of memories that are so strong that, with a little bit of concentration, you can actually teleport yourself back then.

    If I focus enough, I can give myself the creeps.

    And yes, as kids we often make up reasons for things such as “why aren’t the tiles the same color”. In my case, it was “when we wear a t-shirt or underwears why has the label to be on the back and not on the front. I still consider that having the label on the front will jinx everything.

    Comment by shellorz — April 6, 2005 @ 1:49 pm

  4. Fear yes; and it’s scary how little you can protect your kids from it. Yet, still, it’s part of their growing-up.

    As for the short sight. I was very short-sighted very early on. But it had its advantages – gives you microscope eyes for fine detail others can’t see. (Whorls on fingers for instance.) Also – assuming you weren’t too young ever to go to bed under a blanket – did you know the blanket code – every little hair becoming part of an unreadable yet thrilling message in cipher. When I finally got contact lenses (in my 30’s I could have long sight in one eye and short sight in the other. That was the best of both worlds.

    Comment by grannyp — April 6, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

  5. I also had walk-in wardrobe phobia when I was little. It’s the clothes. They are scarily people-shaped!

    I remember many a night lying paralysed in my bed, certain that the shadowy shapes of a stray jacket sleeve or a trouser leg really belonged to sinister and evil figures. Only the next morning did I dare touch with a shudder the offending objects of my fear.

    Maybe it’s something like that for Tadpole. Not wishing to scare you or anything. :???:

    Comment by Mike — April 6, 2005 @ 3:30 pm

  6. My son also has a vivid imagination, he seems to think his parents are stupid, and uses his imagination to dream up the most bizarre excuses for being late.As if thats never been done before! The only Monsters in his bedroom (apart from himself) are those people he brings home and chooses to call friends. I am begining to sound frighteningly like my Dad….so I better go, because that thought scares me!!

    Comment by Colin — April 6, 2005 @ 4:22 pm

  7. No wonder you were scared, that was creepy!

    With regard to Tadpole, isn’t it funny how fast little kids change? You know they will, but it still takes me by surprise.

    Comment by Sierra — April 6, 2005 @ 6:34 pm

  8. TO THIS DAY, I still take a flying leap to get into bed so a hairy arm/tenticle won’t get me.

    I have a LOT of respect for my kids fears and they both have flowery smelling “Monster Spray” at the ready by their beds (just in case).

    Comment by Aj — April 6, 2005 @ 9:45 pm

  9. There’s a great scene in a terry pratchett book where the nanny decides that rather than try to assuage kids fears by telling them there are no monsters in the closet, she gives them something far more practical: a poker with which to beat the crap out of the monsters.
    I remember fuzzy felts. They rocked. They didn’t flash, or make noises, or vibrate or shoot projectiles. Everything fun about them came from your own imagination. I think that “make your own fun” mentality is missing from a lot of kids’ toys now. God, listen to me, I’m 22 and I sound like my grandmother, Colin. Makes me sound like that monty python sketch “You call that poverty? You’re lucky. I didn’t even have an iPod when I was a lass.”

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 7, 2005 @ 12:10 am

  10. As a 7-year old, I was sleeping on the floor of my Grandparents’ flat, and whilst lying in bed, I curiously slid back the wardrobe door, to find… three detached human legs. Agile though the young mind is, I still had a slightly, er, anxious moment before remembering that my grandad had an artificial leg, and indeed a couple of spares.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — April 7, 2005 @ 10:35 am

  11. When I was four, I used to have a recurring dream about Busby, that weird bird that was the mascot of some electricity company or other. I always used to think I could see him everywhere. It was bloody awful and made being four extremely unpleasant.
    If my mummy or daddy had murmured happy things to me in my sleep, I’d have been a very happy little man. So I’m sure your little ‘un will have happy dreams.

    Comment by The Long Lost One — April 7, 2005 @ 1:27 pm

  12. Really enjoyed your article.Keep up the good work. I can sympathise with you and Tadpole as I was always convinced a train would drive up the garden path and crash into the dining room – a recurring nightmare for years when I was little. As I am also VERY shortsighted much of what you said on that score touched a nerve too. By the way, have you had Tadpole’s eyes checked? Both my chidren have short sight, but, fortunately not as ‘minus’ as mine.
    All the best
    Sandy 08

    Comment by Sandy Bootman — April 7, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

  13. Tadpole is -.5 in both eyes and we have to go for a check up in june, when she will be 2. I pray that things won’t have worsened, and that the correction in both eyes stays the same, otherwise they will insist on giving her baby glasses.

    Poor child, so far she seems to have inherited everything from her father, except his 20/20 vision.

    Comment by petite — April 7, 2005 @ 3:06 pm

  14. I don’t get a commission on promoting kids’ videos, but this post makes me think of Monsters Inc. I’ve watched it so many times that I can lip synch with Billy Crystal’s lines.

    It’s great being a parent with Pixar and Dreamworks around rather than only Disney.

    Comment by Ria — April 7, 2005 @ 3:44 pm

  15. don’t tell my kids or tadpole, but I’m still terrified of the dark and things that lurk under the bed (one of the reasons I always insist on futons-… tragically, I’m not kidding)… but FUZZY FELTS! What a blast from the past… transported to the seventies by way of petite, thanks, luvvie.

    Comment by vit — April 7, 2005 @ 3:51 pm

  16. I too was scared as a child. I had my bed in front of my bedroom door so I could leap from the hallway and avoid anything lurcking under it. It is funny that you mention the poor eyesight because I had glasses as a kid too. It was like a lightbulb going off in terms of why ordinary shapes scared me at night.

    Comment by Bob — April 7, 2005 @ 9:41 pm

  17. I must confess some things can set me off with the childhood jitters all over again. Japanese horror films are particularly effective, I find. I don’t like walking past a TV in a dark room (‘Ring’) and the bathtub in the dark (‘Dark Water’)…


    Comment by petite — April 7, 2005 @ 10:27 pm

  18. I used to dream that I woke up and the house was upside down, in fact the entire world was upside down. I’ve had this dream maybe 100 times in my life…what does it mean? How to protect them from their own imaginations?! And should we?

    Comment by Kathy — April 7, 2005 @ 11:54 pm

  19. I used to be terribly afraid of the two double wardrobes in my bedroom, but didn’t have the guts to tell my mom since I was the oldest daughter and was supposed to care for my younger sisters. So I set out to move my little desk lamp in the wardrobe so it would stay on and I could watch for monsters for a bit. After a few days, I convinced myself there were no monsters and that fear went away.

    The one fear that followed me for most of my youth was a fear of fire. Funny how it turned into pyromania once I got to teenagehood.

    Comment by Vero — April 8, 2005 @ 12:57 am

  20. If it’s not frightfully rude and indiscreet, may I enquire about the sudden appearance of the holiday cottages in the sidebar? Are they friends of yours who are renting them? Or is it just random ad syndication?

    Comment by EasyJetsetter — April 8, 2005 @ 1:06 am

  21. of course you may. I should make it clearer that it’s an external ad, as a favour, to a lady who sometimes comments on the site.

    I’m kind of hoping I might get a good deal one day if I go there myself!

    Comment by petite — April 8, 2005 @ 9:30 am

  22. A really lovely post. I like that a lot.

    Comment by Tim — April 9, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

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