We all love to boast about how cute and smart our children are. We’ll happily tell the whole world what angels they are, destined to bring joy to the universe with their bright eyes and adorable smiles. What we don’t talk about so much is the propensity our children have to creep us out.
Children can be very creepy individuals. There, I’ve said it.
For all of their usual noisiness, and the delightful pitter-patter of their little feet, children have a disturbing knack for being able to move silently from place to place within a house. They mostly use this skill at night, when they are supposed to be in bed, and their parents are relaxing in the security of knowing that no little creatures are gliding around, staring at them from places that are not the bed.
Most parents have a rough idea of how many people should be occupying their home after all the doors have been closed and the neighbors dispersed to their own abodes. Once the children are tucked into bed, there is generally a limited number of people who should be roaming around the home, and a list of places where one should not expect to find them.
It can be quite alarming to come across a person standing silently halfway down a darkened staircase late at night. Your child is innocently staring off into the darkness as if he sees dead people, and is in no way alarmed by the sight of them. Not only is it startling, but standing in such a place, at such a time, is not anything that an adult would think to do, thus adding an eerie dose of the unnatural into the mix. But children will do such things, not giving a second thought to how unnatural it seems, and never having considered how much unnatural equals freaky.
If you have never been awakened in the middle of the night by the patient breathing of your child as he watches you sleep from beside your bed, then you really don’t appreciate how creepy kids can be. Of course he needs a drink of water, or some such thing vital to his 3 a.m. happiness, but he’s staring at you with that blank look on his face that makes you want to check his scalp for sixes. He wanted you to wake up, for how else could you supply him his vital drink of water, but he didn’t want to be overt about waking you up. Instead, he just stood there and breathed with increasing volume until your unconscious soul could take it no longer and opened your eyes to whatever force was hovering over your defenseless self.
Your soul really expected it to be just a vaguely disturbing dream, but there really is a person standing there watching you sleep. And that person doesn’t even have the courtesy to say some calming words before your heart stops beating. He just continues watching with that same blank stare.
Finally, when you’ve recovered yourself enough to mumble, “What are you doing up?” he replies in the monotone of some alien child, “Daddy, I want a drink of water.” So you take him to the kitchen and give him a glass of water, a big glass of water. He barely wets his lips on it and hands it back to you. “I’m done,” he says. You stare at him, while your eye begins to twitch. “Really?” you think to yourself as you dump out 99.5% of the liquid. “This was about water?”
You lead him back to his bed and tuck him in. You shuffle back to your own bed, and even though you are very tired, you don’t sleep. You wonder how long he had been standing there watching you sleep. You were completely vulnerable. “Water,” you whisper to yourself. “Likely story.”
In the morning, the boy is all giggles and smiles again. This is some relief, but a nagging paranoia makes you test him. You ask him if he was able to go back to sleep after he had his water. Your worst fear is that he will answer you with a British accent to the effect of, “Water? Why dear father, I don’t know what you mean.”
He smiles and says, “I did go to sleep. Thanks for getting me water, Daddy.” You breathe a deep breath. He really is your boy, and he really did want just the tiniest sip of water. He isn’t an imposter, grown out of pod, plotting to murder you in your sleep.
He’s your boy, a little creepy sometimes, but you love him to pieces.
UPDATE: Read the sequel to this post here.