Oops, I Scared Him Again (A Parenting Fail)

Someone recently told me that no matter how good a parent’s intentions may be, they will undoubtedly do something that will traumatize their children, at some point in time. I was assured that regardless of how hard I try to provide my son with a trauma-free childhood, at least one or two horrifying experiences will be the inevitable result of my parenting choices.

That can’t be true, can it?

I didn’t think so … until a few weeks ago when I sent my poor child screaming in terror down an aisle in Walmart.

Sorry, Buddy.

Now, to set the stage for this event, it should be noted that I went into that Halloween aisle with the intent of getting my little guy excited for the season. It was the perfect set-up. All the decorations were out and there were tons of items that I was sure would catch his interest.

Another piece of important information you should have, dear reader, is that the word scary had recently become one of my son’s favourite words. He first seemed to learn its true meaning upon seeing a snippet of a YouTube video showing the tires of a truck driving over random objects such as water bottles or balloons. He seemed to be fascinated by the destruction of these objects—that was until it was a lineup of small jack-o’-lanterns, complete with expressive faces, that were pummeled and crushed by the large wheels.

Now, I don’t know if it was the fact that my son loved seeing the pumpkins all lined up, or whether the smiles they bore made him believe that they were somehow alive, but something about this visual absolutely devastated him.

“Scary!” he exclaimed, hiding his face and demanding the video be turned off. “Scary pumpkins!”

While I definitely jumped into comforting-mom mode by giving him a cuddle and turning off the video, I have to admit I was impressed to see that my two-year-old not only understood the concept of scary but could also express the emotion of fear, using his words. This excitement faded quickly though because, after this, anytime he saw a pumpkin he would insist that they were something to be afraid of.

Like a lot of parents, my instinct is to help alleviate my child’s fear. “Pumpkins can’t hurt you,” I would explain, adding that while some do have spookier faces, others present joyful and hilarious expressions instead.

This seemed to work! My bundle of joy began to get over the fear he had of the overgrown vegetables. Just in time, too, as Halloween was approaching. I was excited to take Buddy out trick-or-treating this year, but, with pumpkins being on every porch, it had the potential to go very badly if he had remained afraid of them.

And so, with me feeling pretty gosh-darn good about my parenting that day, my son and I bravely walked down the aisle of costumes, laughing and pointing out all of the ghoulish decorations that we passed along the way.

Then I saw it.

Something that would help cement how amazingly NOT scary pumpkins were.

It was one of those door-knocker thingamabobs that you hang up for trick-or-treaters. The ones where you press a button and they sing a funny song to you. Perfect, I thought. With its smiling face and the accompaniment of a dance-worthy tune, my little Buddy would laugh and dance and officially be over his fear of pumpkins.

It would have worked out just great … had I grabbed the pumpkin that sang a funny song.

I did not grab the pumpkin that sang a funny song.

No, dear reader, I grabbed the one that erupted into the creepiest face imaginable and shrieked at him.

The rest of the evening consisted of many, many apologies and two brand-new Hot Wheels—to make up for my parenting fail.

He is fine, I promise. And I learned an important lesson: try out every new toy, to see what it does, before showing it to my very-impressionable two-year-old.

The good news is we did eventually recover from what I like to call the “pumpkin fiasco,” and I am happy to say that my little guy will excitedly walk by and point pumpkins out, these days, with a giant grin. Although I am continually reminded of the potential future therapy bills when each time he sees a jack-o’-lantern, he always whispers, “Pumpkins scary and funny.”

Good job, Mom!

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