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That Time I Let My Kid Watch Something She Shouldn't

My daughter came to me recently and asked to watch the "Goosebumps" TV series. She knows she is not allowed to watch anything new without permission from her father or me. So she asked me to screen the show and decide if it was OK.

I was hesitant. I knew about the book series but had never ready any of them. Nor had I seen the show. I told her I thought it was intended for older kids and probably would be too scary for her.

She reminded me of the kind of books we have been reading—the New York Times best-selling series "School for Good and Evil," for example.

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When she was first drawn to those books at the store, I had concerns as well. But, we had been reading things far above her age level for quite a while. I did some research, spoke to my husband, and we decided to get the first book of the series and try it out.

She absolutely loved it. I would read to her before bed and think to myself, "This stuff is going to give her nightmares!" Yet it never did. She was engrossed and could not get enough.

What I failed to take into account is the fact my child's imagination is not capable of conjuring up really frightening stuff.

With that in mind, I let her to watch "Goosebumps." With me at first. She did fine and enjoyed many of the episodes, asking that we buy some of the books for her to read to herself. She thought it was all very silly. And not at all scary.

Then she watched one particular episode—"A Night in Terror Tower"—and we haven't had a full night's sleep in this house since.

Nightmares.

Every. Single. Night.

She's afraid of the dark. Doesn't want to sleep by herself. Or even be alone during the day. It completely freaked her out. I have watched the episode, and I can't figure out what exactly it was that bothered her so much. There were other episodes I felt were far creepier. Those didn't even phase her.

But that one did. I feel guilty for exposing her to something she wasn't ready for. And am kicking my sleep-deprived self over and over for making such a mistake.

What I failed to take into account is the fact my child's imagination is not capable of conjuring up really frightening stuff. Sure, the themes and characters in the books we have read are "scary," but there is no visual component. And as vivid as her imagination is, it is limited by her sphere of reference, her life experience.

I underestimated the impact visual imagery can have on a small child.

So even as I was reading about all manner of evil creatures in a book, she was not capable of visualizing in her mind what they really look like. That's why all the terrifying creatures described in vivid detail in the "School for Good and Evil" series didn't bother her.

Moreover, when we are reading she is focused on the story and the overall themes being explored. I can tell by the kind of questions she asks and the comments she makes. She doesn't really think about what the characters look like but is more interested in their actions, relationships and lives.

I underestimated the impact visual imagery can have on a small child. "Goosebumps" brought chilling creatures to life right before her very eyes. And now, when she closes them at night, the creatures live on in her subconscious.

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So when the visions become too much, she wakes and cries for me. I climb in bed with her. Assure her she is safe. Hold her until she falls back asleep. And pray the monsters will let us all get some rest.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY: Elizabeth Ross

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