The other night Snookie needed calming down and I was trying to think of a soothing story to tell him.
He had watched a particularly disturbing episode of In The Night Garden when Mr Pontipine’s moustache had blown off and was being buffeted around the chimneypots by the wind.
I was cooking dinner at the time but heard his voice from down the hallway and immediately noticed the distinctive sound of fear – something rare for Snookie.
Usually if he cries it is in frustration at not being allowed to do or have what he wants at that moment. This is a recurring theme, no doubt for all parents of children this age, and is the usual cause of his distress. I have been given two schools of thought on this – one is to distract him and the other is to validate his feelings. Unfortunately the two schools, as you will notice, are in complete contrast to one another so I bounce rather alarmingly between one and the other hoping that something will eventually stop him howling without causing too much damage to his psyche.
But on this occasion, the sound was different. It started quietly and hesitantly and then built up crescendoing eventually to a full scale ‘Maaaammmmmmyyyy’ as he ran down the hallway and straight into my arms.
The Engineer had been on hand when the moustache scene unfolded and had apparently provided shelter for the first frightening moments but ultimately sanctuary had been sought, and hopefully found, in the arms of mum.
Such was his distress that it took a good few minutes of hair stroking and very tight hugs before he could be persuaded into the high chair for the now overcooked dinner and even then the image of the mysterious moustache flying about the chimney pots was still clearly with him.
So this was how I came to be telling him a story in an attempt to replace the tape with a new soothing one, hopefully erasing the scary picture for good.
Sitting in the semi darkness with the still flushed little boy gazing up at me expectantly I cast around for ideas for a story which was bright and cheerful but sufficiently captivating to ride out the adrenalin rush of the Night Garden drama.
“Well, you know how we have that big tree in the lounge with all the lights and shiny balls on….
“… and you have seen all the lights in the shops and in the streets…
“… well this is called Christmas and it is the time when people get together and sing lovely songs and have some nice food and give each other presents …
“…yes and it is all to celebrate the birth of a Jesus. It is Jesus’ birthday you see, and so we all celebrate for him because he was… he was…”
I found to my amazement I could not say it. In one step I jumped straight out of my life, my schooling, my upbringing, the weekly attendance at Mass, confession, the Easter vigil, transubstantiation – the whole nine yards.
I could not tell my son, who I went to great lengths to have baptised into the Catholic faith so he would not go to Limbo if he died, that Jesus was the Son of God.
‘..a very good man,’ I finished.
By the time he had fallen asleep minutes later, I walked out of his bedroom relieved of my Christianity and consequently my responsibility to pass on all the same rituals and dogma which shaped me.
I am still not sure if this is a Good Thing or not. I will certainly continue to tell him about God and feel I can back up that story with strong evidence and good examples. But despite it being rather awkward, what with the seasonal timing and all, I just don’t think I can sell the Jesus part at this moment.
And it might not stop there.
If the desire to tell my son only true stories has managed to unhinge a lifetime of suspended belief on which my religious faith has until now rather precariously rested, let’s face it, it doesn’t bode well for Santa Claus.
Nevermind. Don’t worry about me. Give me a light sprinkling of snow on Christmas morning and a couple of verses of Adeste Fideles and I’ll be right as rain.