Night Thoughts

by jkatejohnston

30 August 2013

Dear Max,

I’ve been awake since 1:30 and up reading since about 3:00 and now it’s 4:42 and since I get up at 5:15, I guess this is morning. It doesn’t feel like it.


Yesterday Enzo got himself into A State. He doesn’t do this with Teresa because she gives him absolutely no attention for it.

He gets out of the bath.

“Go get your pajamas on while I take a bath, and then it’ll be time to read books.”

“I’m scared.”

“It’s broad daylight. What are you scared of?”


“I knew we shouldn’t have read that book.” I walk him down the hall to his room. “See, your normal room, just like always, here, I’ll pick out your pajamas.”

Then I see the tears starting, silent and sad and not exactly fake but sort of willed, and the more they come the more convinced he is of his own tragic situation. “I hate being scared. I’m just so scared. I hate it!” I hug him, and he rests his head on my shoulder, and I feel the tears on my skin. It feels sweet and close and good. I am being sucked into the drama.

“Do you think you’re sort of deciding to be scared?” He nods. “So, you could decide to be unscared. Like in this book I’m reading there’s a woman who is all by herself and she sees a bear and a rattlesnake and she keeps saying to herself, ‘I am brave, I am brave,’ and she’s still pretty scared, but it helps.”

“That’s not gonna work.”

We sit on his bed together. The tears are still leaking out. I get the idea to do a little therapy with him. Maybe this is about starting first grade and taking his fear of that and putting it into werewolves.

“Is there stuff from your real life that you’re scared of right now?”


“Like what?”

“Like the Lock Ness Monster. And mummies.”


I decide not to push the starting-first-grade theory. Though I do have to add that a few days ago I asked him how he felt about starting first grade, and for a moment he said nothing and then, “It’s unfamiliar.” And then he added with cheerful certitude, “Plus I totally hate school.”

But back to the tragic werewolves. I finally just left him crying on his bed and took a bath and he must have come out of his room and told Teresa that he was scared because I heard her telling him: cut it out, that’s enough, and it was. He cheered up immediately.

Encouraging children to express their feelings is—perhaps an over-used technique. Especially when they’re fake feelings.

But fake isn’t quite right. It’s more like trying out the feelings, taking them for a spin, practicing them. Like my fantasies about either Teresa or me dying in some tragic and classy way and it’s so sad and I cry—and all with great pleasure.