For more than three weeks now, my redhead has approached bedtime in a blind panic. This was far more than the typical "I'm not going to bed so I'm having a tantrum" willfulness. I've seen enough of that to know the difference. This was fear.
Fear of zombies, specifically.
Turns out, right around Halloween, the nearly ex took the three kids to a comic book convention in Baltimore. There, they saw a couple of zombie-dressed grown-ups. The older two took this in stride. The little guy? He thought the zombies were chasing him.
That's not what did it, though.
A couple of weeks ago, in an effort to entertain the troops through another chicken nugget feast, the nearly ex pulled up YouTube and put on Michael Jackson's "Thriller." With zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.
Upshot? Terrified four year old.
And then came the frogs.
Apparently the big brother was watching an episode of the Penguins of Madagascar about poison dart frogs. Green bubbly rashes. Stacks of paralyzed penguins. All that made quite an impression on my little guy, so the poison frogs joined the zombies for our nightly phobia fest. (Because, of course, zombies come out only at night.)
Lots of screaming over toothbrushes and bedtime stories. Lots of refusing to climb into bed. Lots of not falling asleep. And then lots of waking up. And more waking up. And then waking up some more.
We used monster spray. It doesn't work on zombies, or so I was informed. I even got a scented room spray instead of the high-powered, mom-sized, imaginary monster spray we usually use.
I pulled out the redhead's baby blanket and told him it was infused with protective magic. After all, he made it to the ripe old age of four without a single zombie incident. And while it didn't solve the problem, it did help. He takes it to dad's house. He takes it to preschool. He uses it as a superhero cape and pulls it up to his chin at bedtime. He feels safer.
Still, not enough.
Finally, in an effort to get the poison frogs off the list, I pointed out to him that the frogs live very far away. And that they can't fly an airplane. And they can't get on a boat. So they can't come here.
But the zombies? Well, they live in Baltimore, or so my little guy tells me. And, truth be told, Baltimore is a heckuva lot closer than South America.
That's when mom had a brainstorm.
"Honey, tell me, can zombies drive?"
"Oh no. They can't drive."
"Well, Baltimore's pretty far away. Didn't you have to take a car to go there?"
"Um ... yeah." Wheels turning. "Hey, they can't come here!"
Problem solved. Zombies can't drive. They are stuck in Baltimore. And I guarantee you, we are not going to Baltimore. Not now. Not ever.
At least, not without that blanket.