“She’s going to scare me.”
My oldest daughter had come to me with a familiar concerned look that usually accompanied her when her sister was up to no good.
“If you know she’s going to do this, doesn’t that make it less scary?”
If you see a car is coming, you don’t step out in front of it. You don’t talk to strangers. And you don’t run with scissors unless there’s an emergency, and then you keep the sharp end pointed toward the ground.
“She’s planning this for the middle of the night when I’m sleeping!”
That threw in a new variable.
I knew she was not above such tricks as I had seen the evidence. While my oldest daughter was sleeping off an illness, she had picked up a toy camera that had grainy video capability and shot footage of her. She had quietly filmed without disturbing her and even showed herself backing out of the room undetected. I found out about it later after the camera’s film had ended and it was reviewed.
Her track record indicated she was capable of being a highly trained spy.
“Did she tell you this?”
The master orchestrater usually never revealed her plan unless caught, and even then, it wasn’t always clear what she had devised entirely.
“I found this on the floor in my bedroom!”
The two had shared a room for a while, one being four years old when the other was born. I had no idea until many years later when they would laugh and tell me how they would fake going to sleep at night and be in a full-blown tug of war sheet fight within minutes of my exit from the room.
As they got older and the skirmishes increased, I knew they needed their own space—kind of like when I had to separate my two dogs from sleeping in the same kennel.
She handed me a piece of paper. On it was the perfect drawing of my daughter’s bedroom. The details of furniture and room arrangement were exact.
“Is this a map?” I asked, looking at the jagged edges ripped out of a notebook.
“Yes! She’s going to hide and jump out and scare me!”
They both have fantastic drawing abilities that they did not inherit from me. She had taken her artistic flair and turned it into mental warfare.
“She didn’t just drop this on accident,” I said, catching on to what she was doing.
“It was in the middle of the room. It wasn’t there when I left.”
“She did it on purpose to mess with your mind. Your room isn’t that big, so where will she possibly hide so you don’t know she is there?”
The thought of being vulnerable while asleep was the key to her distress. It wasn’t the actual act prompting fear but the anticipation of it.
“She put a big x in the closet. She’s going to hide in there!”
“There is no way she’s going to do this to you. She wouldn’t tell you what would happen and where she would be ahead of time. She’s planting the idea so you stay up all night while she’s peacefully asleep.”
When I presented the paper to the six-year-old who should have been running a branch of our military, she smiled and admitted that she had put it right where she knew her sister would see it. It was all done just to get a reaction, and she had gotten what she wanted.
Besides mind games, they were competitive. While I was distracted with a grocery list, they would be arguing over the shopping cart and who would get to sit on what side. Back then, they had plastic seats built onto the carts they sat in while I got a major workout pushing them and all the food up and down every aisle.
Advertisers took advantage of this by putting their products on the back, just as a subliminal message to get you to buy whatever you spent the next hour or so looking at.
“I want the Oreo side!”
“I want it!”
The fight was on. It was Chips Ahoy versus Oreo, and it had been deemed that one was better than the other. I hadn’t recognized it the first few times, but once I did, I had to think quickly about how to solve it so there wouldn’t be a scene in public. It was a battle to convince one of them that both sides were the same. The only way was negotiation on my part.
“I will time it and give you the same minutes sitting there.” This technique calmed many storms that often blew in out of now where. That’s when you know you are winning.
It never was fail-proof, though. Some conflicts that cropped up were beyond fixing.
Board games were tense, with the two trying their best to outdo the other. There never was outright poor sportsmanship, but somewhat of a subtle feeling that would creep in when one was losing while the other was not.
One game that both of them liked was Funky Fingernails. The genius who manufactured this is off on a yacht without care, living off royalties.
The premise was to collect nine slide on nails of the same color and the prized golden nail.
Cue the angelic music.
It was the most highly sought piece in the game, and there was only one, so that meant the winner had to secure it. But, just because someone had it didn’t mean it was theirs. A spinner was involved, giving your opponent the chance to swipe whatever they wanted from your hand to add to theirs.
There is a universal truth I have seen in action with every kid on the planet. They don’t easily give up what they think is ‘theirs.’
She took MY chair! When there are a million to choose from, they sat in it for less than a minute, got up to get something, and now their sibling has slid in unknowingly because it was vacant.
He stole my favorite pencil! Same situation as the chair but a writing utensil.
So to have a game that pits one against another is just asking for trouble. Watching an ego die can be ugly.
Both would work frantically to gather matching colors to form the perfect fake manicure, which was another point of contention if they were trying for the same shade of pink.
It was an emotional rollercoaster as one would gain an advantage, but then fate would reverse its course and give the other the upper hand.
Both had gotten nine of their required nails during one of these hot-blooded matches. The youngest one had somehow managed to get the golden nail and only needed one more color, while her sister was eyeing the gold one that she needed to complete her hand.
As luck would have it, my oldest spun, and it enabled her to take the golden nail from her sister, making her the winner. Before she could remove it, my youngest daughter started flicking and flinging plastic nails in all directions, stood up, and stormed into her bedroom.
I sat there wondering what I should do. But before I could act, we both heard the mumblings of a person who had obviously snapped.
“I hate my room! I hate my socks! I hate my bed! I hate my pillow!”
The compulsion to compete had overtaken her ability to think straight. This rant of everything she found not to her liking poured out of her in a high-pitched yell.
I gasped when she said,
“I hate mom!”
I almost went in to silence her outburst, but I let it go to see where we would end up. At first, the two of us sat there shocked but restrained ourselves from laughing as it went on so she wouldn’t hear us.
“I hate the dog! I hate everything! I hate the trees! I hate my window!”
I really struggled and had to put both of my hands over my mouth not to laugh out loud when she said,
“I HATE OUTSIDE!”
Then it went silent. As fast as it had begun, it was over. I waited to ensure that all of it was out in the open before I crawled over to her door and looked in.
She was sound asleep on her bed. Later, I realized she had been running a fever, so her behavior was partly based on that and that she had been stuffing down her amped-up anxiety that grew with each turn taken.
We can pretend that our childhood gave way to such things, and we are so much further along and mature as adults. But are we?
Two things that don’t go well together are fear and paranoia. Going to the store meant seeing bare shelves as terror gripped the hearts of many. 2020 is a bit farther away now, but this was a daily existence during the pandemic’s beginning.
I was checking out at an office supply store the other day, and the cashier said,
“Do you want some hand sanitizer?”
First, I wondered if he thought my hands were filthy. They weren’t. Then, I pondered what the sales pitch was going to be.
“Do you want some hand sanitizer? We have way too much, and we have to get rid of it, so we have to give it away.”
He handed me two large bottles of it. This would have been like finding gold two years ago. The race to get it and horde it had been at an all-time high. Some guy had made national news because he had scooped up so much of it, was gouging people in price for it, and has charges against him. He is not anyone’s favorite person. Now, it is freely being gotten rid of as a burden.
What was so feared yesterday isn’t so much today, and what was sought after as the must-have item is available everywhere and to excess.
What does that say? Our emotions are fleeting, and that is where you have to decide if you will be led by your spirit or by your flawed thinking.
In John 4:1 it states:
My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. (Message)
This verse was written concerning false prophets and preachers who claim they are genuine, but it could be applied to everything that comes our way. Mass hysteria is built on no one thinking clearly. It’s the insertion of an idea to get a reaction that creates a ripple effect. Instead of reacting to the news, especially what seems dire, take a minute to question it.
Panic is like watching people do the wave at a sporting event. One section starts it, and it goes from row to row to see if it can make it back to its origin.
Eventually, it dies out because someone decides to quit, and then others make the same decision, much in the same way it got started, just like the highly sought-after hand sanitizer that now is collecting dust on the shelves.
We can learn from these things.
In 2 Corinthians, 5:7 there’s an additional protective device given to those who wish to make themselves less likely to fall for false appearances, like the possible threat of your sister scaring you in the middle of the night:
For we walk by faith; not by sight. (ESV)
Run it past God; ask to be shown with your spiritual eyes what its reality is. Is this how heaven would deliver a sign or a message? Is it helpful and peaceful? Or is it meant to cause you to go into alarm mode?
Let heaven be your guide.