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Monsters Under the Bed

My 3-year-old is obsessed with monsters. He thinks he sees a monster, he thinks he hears one, and he's pretty sure there's one down the hall. It's mostly at bedtime because he doesn't want any monsters in his room. He won't be able to sleep if there are monsters in his room.

I've got the nighttime routine down pat. We check for monsters everywhere: in the corners of his room, in the closet, under the bed. I tell my son that I simply don't allow monsters into our house, and even if they were to get in, I'd shoo them away. Simple as that. He nods at me knowingly — if Mommy says she'll get rid of them, she'll get rid of them. Monsters wouldn't dare tussle with Mommy. And then, just as we're finished, I tell him that one monster has gotten in! But this monster is our friend: He's Elmo. My son kisses Elmo good-night and we agree that some monsters are okay. We don't have to be afraid of monsters, after all.

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But the thing is, the thing I don't want him to know, is that I'm afraid of monsters, too. But the monsters I'm afraid of aren't easily identifiable with red fur and googly eyes. The monsters I'm afraid of keep themselves well hidden. They look just like you and me. It's only after "it" happens that we later realize we should have been scared.

Sandy Hook Elementary. Penn State. Even Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind our beloved Elmo, resigned amidst allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with underage boys.

When it really matters, will I be able to truly protect my children from monsters?

There are monsters all around us. Yet I tell my son that I will protect him. That he doesn't have to worry — it's my job to worry. But the monsters terrify me and keep me up at night. They're not in my room, but they won't let me sleep. When it really matters, will I be able to truly protect my children from monsters?

Of course, you can't live that way. You can't live in fear that every time you drop your child off at school, something unspeakable will happen. You can't go about your day, assuming that everyone around you is armed or is a child molester. You have to live, you have to trust.

But still, we can be as vigilant as we can. We can make sure our school has proper security measures in place. We can teach our children about "stranger danger" and the importance of telling us if an adult has done something to them that doesn't feel right. We can keep our eyes open. We can be cautious.

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Sometimes my son wakes up in the middle of the night, certain that he's seen something. I walk him back to his room, and the routine starts over again: I check the corners, I check the closet, I check under the bed. I assure him that there are no monsters, but even if there were, I'd shoo them away. Simple as that.

If only it were that easy.

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