When my daughter was 5, she really liked to play with blocks.
You know the ones, they have colorful letters and numbers printed on the sides. My daughter started reading at a young age, and she could already spell a lot of words by the time she hit kindergarten. She loved spelling, and she’d play with those blocks for hours. She’d often try random combinations of letters and ask me what they meant. On those occasions that she’d stumble on a real word, she’d clap her hands with delight and giggle.
She was a very sweet child.
One day, I noticed that her collection of blocks had shrunk considerably. “Where did your blocks go, Kiki?” I asked.
“I gave some to my friend,” she said, setting her remaining blocks up into a tower to imprison a hapless Polly Pocket.
I was both proud and exasperated by her answer. Kiki was so generous, she was forever giving her toys away to other children. I was often tasked with tracking them down when she decided she wanted them back.
“And what friend did you give them to?”
“The Wordeater,” she said.
Well, that was new. It must have been a new game – Kiki was very inventive.
“And… who is the Wordeater?” I asked, crouching down next to her on the floor, watching a Polly Pocket hurl herself off the block tower, presumably into a pit of molten lava.
“He’s the Wordeater!” She said, giggling at my ignorance. “He likes words so much, he eats them.”
“I see,” I said very solemnly. “And what does the Wordeater look like?”
“Hm…” she thought, tapping a tiny finger to her lips. “He’s fat,” she started, “and has real little eyes… and a trunk! Like an elephant!”
I frowned. “We don’t call people fat, Kiki.”
“But he is!” She protested. “And he’s not a person, mom, he’s the Wordeater!”
Now I was getting genuinely curious about the little friend she’d made up. I left off my admonition, instead asking, “Where does the Wordeater live?”
She pointed across her room. “He lives under the bed. It’s warm down there, and dark. He likes the dark.”
A strange little shiver crept up my spine at that. He likes the dark. Kids are creepy. Shaking off the feeling, I walked across the room and checked under the bed.
Sure enough, there were Kiki’s blocks, scattered as though she’d tossed them underneath the bedframe, sort of like feeding an animal at the zoo. I smiled, somehow glad that those blocks were the only things I found under there.
“Well, make sure the Wordeater gets enough to eat,” I told Kiki before leaving the room to start dinner, “And that he goes to bed at a decent hour!”
“I will, mom!” She answered, casting yet another Polly Pocket into the den of carpet lava flames.
Kiki made good on her promise.
I didn’t think much about the Wordeater for a few days after that. Kiki didn’t mention him, and I was busy filing taxes and waiting on pins and needles to see if my husband got the promotion he was aiming for.
No, I didn’t think about it one Saturday morning, when Kiki was helping me bake cookies.
“Mom,” she said, her voice lilting with the absentmindedness of childhood, “What’s your favorite word?”
I had to think about that. “Hm… why, my favorite word is ‘Kiki,’ of course!” I teased. Kiki giggled. I loved her giggle.
“What’s your favorite word?” I asked back as I rolled the cookie dough into balls and began spacing them on the cookie sheet.
“The Wordeater has been teaching me lots of new words. I like them all,” she said.
“What kind of words?” I asked.
She looked up at me, grinned proudly, and said,
Being a parent is a constant tug of war between wanting to scream at your kid and laugh your ass off.
It was pretty damn hard keeping a straight face as I told Kiki that was a bad word. I realized very quickly that she had no idea it was naughty – wherever she’d heard it, apparently she hadn’t picked up its meaning or connotations. I was firm with her, but kind, all while trying to stifle my own giggles. Oh, that story was definitely going to be great fun telling at Kiki’s graduation in years to come.
I tried asking Kiki where she’d heard that word, but she just kept insisting that the Wordeater had taught it to her. “I give him my blocks when he’s hungry, and he teaches me new words,” she said.
Eventually, I gave up asking, telling her to ask me from now on what the new words she learned really meant. She had probably heard it at school or on TV, anyway. I didn’t think much of it, other than to tell her father later that night. Unlike me, he was unsuccessful in preventing his laughter, and tears rolled down his face as he listened to the shenanigans our daughter had been up to.
It wasn’t long before I noticed that Kiki had begun acting… strange.
She wasn’t any different during the day or anything. No, it had more to do with what happened at night.
The first time it happened, I almost screamed, I was so startled. I walked into her room around ten at night to check on her – I’d put her in bed almost an hour earlier – and was surprised to see her sitting on the floor facing her bed. She was cross-legged and rocking just a little back and forth, as though trying to lull herself to sleep.
“Kiki? What are you doing up? I thought I told you to go to bed an hour ago.” Kiki and I had already had several discussions about her inability to go to bed when she was told. I walked over to her and saw her closed eyes, realizing with surprise that she seemed to be asleep. Kiki used to sleepwalk when she was about three, but it had only happened a few times. I’d thought she’d grown out of it.
I reached down to pick her up when I saw that her lips were moving. She was saying something. I leaned forward to listen, but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Then, suddenly, the little whispers stopped. In fact, Kiki stopped. She stopped moving, and it almost seemed like she stopped breathing. I reared my head back a little, disconcerted.
Kiki lifted her arm, extending it towards her bed. For one moment, in that small, dark room, she held perfectly still, like a statue of an angel child on top of an infant’s headstone.
And then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, her arm falling to her side, her head drooping forward, and her body relaxing in sleep.
It took me a full minute to collect myself before I managed to reach out and pick Kiki up, tucking her back into her bed.
Looking at Kiki snuggled up in her bed, the moonlight casting a waxen glow on her face, I began to feel suddenly that the room was too small. The darkness of the walls crept in on me, and the brown carpet seemed to be swallowing me whole. The door, with its small patch of light coming in from the hallway, seemed very tiny, as though I’d never be able to squeeze through it. I felt something akin to a rat in a dry trap, and it made me terribly anxious.
I shook my head, trying to dispel the feeling. I’d always been terribly claustrophobic. I switched on Kiki’s nightlight – for my sake more than hers – and left the room.
There were a few more incidents of the whispering, the rocking. I mentioned it to my husband, who actually seemed more worried than I was. He said we should take her to a doctor, just to make sure it was normal. I agreed, knowing that it would put our minds to rest, even if we ended up having to pay a few hundred dollars to learn that we were making a big deal out of nothing.
Do you guys know of any sort of app that can give daily affirmation pop ups on my phone? I’m struggling day by day with my head condition. I’ve started having really bad self loathing because of how much I can’t do work now. I feel like a failure and I don’t want to ask any one person to send me affirmations before I wake up every day. This pain is hindering me in every aspect of my life. :l
Thank you for helping me find apps to help me through this time! I also found one to help my eating problems.. Hopefully I’m recovered soon!