Editor’s Note: As I looked to weed out any typos in Allison’s piece about Branden and his childhood fears (see “Facing the Fear”), I couldn’t help but reflect upon my own experiences with my now twenty-something children. As I read about Branden and his scary “spiders”, I flashed back on the joys and challenges that occurred along the amazing journey and privilege of helping my own children grow up. Allison’s clear and open discussion of these issues took me back in time to one night of my parenting, when I was fortunate enough to roll with the punches and find some inspiration. I can’t say that the type of motherly inspiration revealed in the following story was ALWAYS the case, but it was at least my best intention. So remember, fellow Mamas, it’s always easier if you can laugh! dhc
The True and Scary Story of The Boona Boona Bug, A Short Story about Bedtime and Childhood Fears
by Deborah Hetrick Catanese
The nightlight shone in the little girl’s room, illuminating the sweet face of the sleeping child. D tiptoed through the room, setting the well-worn copy of Good Night Moon on the bookshelf near the door on her way out. She audibly sighed, her shoulders slumped slightly with the tiredness that only the mother of young children can fully grasp. She went to the next room, cracked open the door slightly, and peeked inside at her youngest, who bore a peaceful, angelic expression, now that sleep had erased the eager excitement that his three year old face usually possessed. With relief, her shoulders slightly more squared, she walked down the hall to her bedroom, turned on the lamp on her end table, and picked up a library book, time for adult reading at last. She had barely sat down in her pretty blue upholstered chair and opened her book to find her place when she heard a loud shriek from her little girl. “MOMMY!!!!!”
D sighed again in a more disturbed fashion than before. But since she also sensed that this was a more distressed sound coming from little Christina than usual, she headed back down the hall, just in time to see the little girl tearing out of her room, her nightgown and long brown curls flying wildly behind her. Unfortunately, she ran into the bedroom of her newly awakened brother. “Mommy, Mommy!” they both cried now, “Help!!!”
“OK, my sweethearts. What in the world is wrong?” D said, trying to hide her frustration at still being on duty at the end of a long day.
“There’s a really scary bug in my room!” said the little girl with her adorable and funny little voice that had prompted the nickname of “Creaky” from her daddy. But now she also sounded frightened.
Still not sure whether this wasn’t a stalling tactic about bedtime or a plot to hear yet another story, D pressed for more information. “Oh. A bug?” she said calmly. “And, why are you in your brother’s room, little girl?”
“I was too scared to stay in my room, and besides, I don’t want the mean scary bug to get Brian!” she creaked rather earnestly.
Brian, of course, no longer possessed the look of an angel, but now appeared both impressed and concerned by the turn of events, his lovely brown eyes shining big and bright. “GeeGee said it was weally, weally scary!” he chimed in, using the nickname he gave his sister when he could not form the word “Christina”.
“I’ll get Daddy to kill it,” D said matter-of-factly.
“NO, MOMMY!” the little girl cried. “The yucky bug is already hiding in my room!”
With a look that expressed her clear understanding that bedtime was a very distant event if she did not handle this well, the mother sat down on the edge of the small bed that now contained both of her children, covers pulled tightly all the way up to their little faces.
“What kind of bug did you see, honey?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but he looked at me with a really mean face and he had strange little pink pillows on his feet and spots on his back and he could move up and down and sideways all at the same time!”
“Hmmm,” said D. “Did he have lots of legs?”
“Yes, Mommy! Lots of them! I think he was gonna stick himself on me or Brian!”
“NO WUCKY BUGS!!!!!” shrieked Brian, not one to let any action pass him by.
“OK, you two. Stay there.” said D with her best ‘take charge’ voice. “I think this is a case for The Authorities.”
She marched back into her own bedroom and quickly dialed the phone. After a brief “conversation”, during which she used a dramatic stage whisper, D purposefully hurriedly back to the boy’s room.
“Well, Kids”, she said, “this is good news and rather bad news.” Both children stared raptly at her with very big eyes. “The Authorities said Christina saw the Notorious Boona Boona Bug. The bad news is that the Boona Boona Bug is a very, very naughty bug who is determined to stop children from sleeping.”
D now looked at her children quite seriously, and after a dramatic pause, she continued. “The good news is…there is a Remedy!”
D now cleared her throat. “But”, she said in a pseudo reluctant tone, “if the remedy is going to work, you two will need to get out of bed. Do you think you can?” she asked innocently, yet with the air of a mother who knew exactly what she was doing, which in this case was breaking Mothering Rule Number 9, which reads: NEVER ask a child to get out of his or her bed after bedtime unless the house is on fire!
Both children bounded out of bed. D went on with considerable excitement, “OK, here’s the plan! We all need to get brand new toothbrushes and run them in warm water, FAST!”, as she marched over to the hall closet and swiftly grabbed a new package of said items.
“OK, let’s go, Kids! Now that the tooth brushes are wet, we need to go around the whole second floor like this!” At that, she started flicking the toothbrush so that the water sprayed out into the air, while chanting, “Boona Boona, Boona Boona, Boona Boona.” The children immediately and passionately began chiming in and flicking their toothbrushes.
“Don’t miss a single corner of a single room”, counseled the mom, “or the Boona Boona Bug will know we are Not Serious and that is bad indeed.” Soon all three were laughing, spraying, and chanting “Boona Boona, Boona Boona, Boona Boona.”
In much less time than the minimum of three stories it would have taken for D to quiet down their fright, the tired children began to settle. Each soon allowed her to tuck them happily into their own little beds, nightlights shining on their sweet faces, again.
She walked back to her room with a light step, eased back down in her chair, and picked up her book. But instead of reading, she sat peacefully with the book closed in her lap, a small wistful smile visible on her face.