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Some children — considerate children — have relatively simple fears that can be managed.  If your daughter is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, for example, you just don't turn it on when she's around.  Or even better, you patiently show her how to operate it herself, giving her a sense of security and competence.  And then you hire her out.  (Husband her earnings carefully; it is almost certain that she will refuse to care for you in your old age, because, damn, lady, you're cold.)

Other children — imaginative children — have fears that are fanciful.  Your son might insist that there is a tiger lurking in his bedroom, for example, a laughable prospect unless your child is either Siegfried or Roy, in which case please e-mail me because I have a lot of questions for you.  Instead of sarcastically asking exactly when it was that his room was swept up in a cyclone and deposited somewhere in the Punjab, you can combat his irrational phobia by spraying his room with make-believe tiger repellent.  Or chanting a complicated anti-tiger spell.  Or giving him a magical tiger rock.  (This is probably the most effective option, because if the rock doesn't keep a hungry tiger away, at least your toddler can cave in its skull as it advances.)

Other children — traditional children — are afraid of the dark.  You've got to admit it's a classic.  Why, through time immemorial, our young have clamored for a light at bedtime.  I kind of feel sorry for those poor sad bastard Homo habilis who couldn't even light a greasy rag — that is, unless there has been a recent unearthing of a proto-Zippo somewhere in East Africa of which I am as yet unaware.

Still other children — Charlie — have fears that are utterly inconvenient and completely intractable.  Surprise quiz!  What is the household feature that a family in the middle of a New England winter simply cannot do without?  The housewide heating system!  And what makes a terrifying groaning noise in the night when the thermostat dips to 60° F?  Charlie's mother, trudging down the hall to comfort her sobbing son, who has been awakened by the sound of the baseboard heaters expanding as they warm.

No matter what we tell him, that that ticking and creaking is a good sound, the sound of comfort, the sound of barrel upon barrel of irreplaceable fossil fuels being burned for his well-being, he will not be moved on this point: The heaters are scary and will someday tear themselves from the wall, slither into his bed, and slice him to ribbons with their hundreds of hidden metallic teeth, murdering him in cold blood — well, warm blood, which is the point, isn't it? — unless he sounds the urgent 3 AM alarm.

Now that I think about it, it does sound sort of terrifying.

No amount of reasonable explanation, gentle jollying, or exasperated muttering has persuaded him.  The heaters are more to be feared and hated than respected, and only the overnight vigilance of a three-year-old stands between our shivering family and certain Slant/Fin carnage.

It is an awesome responsibility, and one he takes seriously.  I admire his dedication, I really do, and I appreciate his fierce determination to stay alive, since around here babies don't exactly grow on trees.  But it is exceedingly tiresome, this fear we can't seem to conquer, and I'm on the verge of telling him tonight at bedtime that boy-eating tigers have been sighted in the neighborhood.

Using the vacuum.

And turning off the light in the hallway.

Now we'll see what wakes him in the night.  Told you the heaters were harmless, kiddo.


No real pregnancy update.  I am 7w3d today, with nary a symptom beyond two modest abdominal bruises, profound fatigue, and my nightly transformation into a thoroughgoing bitch when it's time for my progesterone.  Next appointment isn't until January, which is convenient because it will take place after I have a chance to make a heartfelt New Year's resolution:

Don't blow this one, baby.