Morrison went to his first carnival today. His Aunt Stefani picked him up at noon. She had her two kids with her, Maya and James. Maya is 7 and James is 4. I thought Mo would have a great time. He didn’t. When Stefani walked through the door a little before three o’clock with the kids in tow, I could immediately tell something was wrong. Morrison looked like he had been crying. Maya had her arm around a stuffed penguin’s neck and James was holding a rubber snake. My niece’s face told me that I was in trouble.
“Hi,” I said. “Is everything okay?”
“No. It’s not,” Stefani replied with a hostile glare.
I bent down and touched Mo’s face. “What’s the matter, buddy?”
Morrison looked at me, hands down by his sides. “There were clowns.”
“Clowns? What’s wrong with clowns?”
“They’re scary!” he said.
“Scary? Why are they scary?”
“Like in the movie,” he said.
“Movie? What movie?”
“The movie about the clowns.”
Still confused, I turned to Stefani and said, “What’s he talking about?”
She didn’t answer me. Not yet. “Kids, go play in the other room.”
This was serious. Maya and James scurried past me like cats escaping a house fire. Morrison didn’t budge.
“It’s okay, buddy,” I said. “Go play.”
Stefani opened up on me as soon as Mo was out of the room. “You are such a jackass sometimes! I can’t believe you’d let him watch Killer Klowns From Outer Space. That movie is messed up! It scared the hell out of me and I was twice his age when I saw it. What’s wrong with you?”
Wow, I thought. Really? That movie’s hilarious. Popcorn guns. Dogs made out of balloons. I mean, there were definitely parts when Mo covered his eyes, but I didn’t think he was frightened. He shouldn’t be frightened of stuff like that.
“So what happened?” I said.
“It was a carnival. There were clowns. When Mo saw them, he started crying and tried to run away. It took forever to convince him that they we’re going to stuff him in cotton candy cocoons and drink his blood. Once he’d calmed down, we all went on a couple of rides and the kids played a few games. Then we walked past the bouncy castle and there were more clowns juggling and doing tricks. Mo flipped out. I had to sit there and hold him while Maya and James played in the castle. It was horrible. All he wanted to do was leave. I ended up just paying for those toys so that we didn’t have to spend any more time there.”
“Damn,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Apologize to the kids – not me. They’re the ones who had to suffer for your mistake. I only hope that Morrison doesn’t have nightmares for the rest of his life because of it.”
“Don’t say that. He’ll be fine. I’ll make sure to not let him watch that again.”
“I think the damage is done,” she said. “Just don’t let it happen with something else, okay. You can’t just assume he’s mature enough to handle everything. He’s a kid. Kid’s get scared.”
“Children are a lot more mature than we give them credit for,” I said, feeling the need to mount a defense.
“That may be – for some things. But obviously not this. And it’s not Mo’s fault either. You need to let him be a child and stop trying to mold him into the coolest kid on the planet.”
“Mold him? I’m not trying to mold him. I’m just giving him direction,” I said.
“Well, maybe you should be taking more direction from him.”
We were done. There was no need to argue. Stefani was right. I obviously shouldn’t have let Mo watch that movie, and now the thought of him having a life-long phobia because of my cavalier parenting began to fill me with guilt. I just assumed he would think it was funny – like I did when I was a kid. Then again, I was a bit older than him. I also wasn’t quite as sensitive as he is. He gets that from his mother, Caroline. I miss her. I wish she was here to help me. She’d be great. Sadly, she’s gone, and I have to go tuck our son into bed and pray that he doesn’t have nightmares about Krusty the Clown because it would really suck if we couldn’t watch The Simpsons together.