WOSTER: Are you afraid of the dark?
One of the things I have never liked about being a father is how, when the kids are around, a dad must pretend he isn't afraid of anything. Like the dark, for example. I've been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. When I was young, ...
One of the things I have never liked about being a father is how, when the kids are around, a dad must pretend he isn't afraid of anything.
Like the dark, for example. I've been afraid of the dark for as long as I can remember. When I was young, that didn't matter. A lot of kids are afraid of the dark. Even as a young adult, it was something I could mention to a close friend. I'd be ridiculed, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. But a father simply can't let a child see that he is frightened by a dark night or dark house.
Look, I love being a father. I love almost everything about it. I have since that December day in 1967 when Dr. V.V. Volin strolled into the waiting room at McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls and told me that Nancy and I were the parents of a baby girl.
That's how reveals went back then. Gender reveal, you know? These days some couples have elaborate parties to announce whether the coming baby will be a girl or a boy. (I learned that on social media.) In older times, people hung a needle on a string and predicted boy or girl by how the needle spun. In our case, it was simpler than any of that. Nancy learned we had a baby girl in the delivery room. I learned a bit later in what they called the father's waiting room. No party but pretty exciting.
Later, with our two sons, I was allowed in the delivery room. Each boy had a bit of a complication during the birth. Things turned out great, but I was terrified for a few moments each time until I learned the new baby was healthy.
Those were rational fears. Any father, any human being I know, would have felt the same thing. And I imagine any child would have understood if a parent showed fear in that situation.
Fear of the dark, though? That makes no sense at all.
Or, wait a minute. Maybe it does.
I did an online search for articles and sites that explored fear of the dark. On one site, I found an article that said many children are afraid of the dark, but it isn't the darkness itself that's frightening. "It's the fear of what the darkness masks. The dark leaves us vulnerable and exposed, unable to spot any threats that may be lurking nearby.''
When I was 5 or so, on a visit to our farm neighbors, my friend Gary's big brother dared him to walk into the shelterbelt out past the glow of the yard light. From the back steps, it looked pitch black out there. Gary didn't want to. He asked if I'd go with him. I didn't want to. We didn't know what threats lurked out there. Afraid to seem chicken, though, we started toward the trees. Just then, my folks said we had to go home. I don't know when I ever loved them more.
Most people become comfortable with darkness as they mature, I read online. However, in a 2012 survey in the United Kingdom, 40 percent of adults said they were afraid to walk around the house with the lights off. I'm American, but count me among those Brits. If I had lived alone my entire life, my electric bills would have been astronomical. I'd have left at least one light burning on every level of any house I inhabited. I'd have kept a bulb glowing in the garage, too.
I'd have been in a quandary about the basement furnace room. I'd have wanted a light on, but ever since the movie "Poltergeist'' I've hated the sight of a light glowing behind a closed door at night.
For the sake of the kids, I had to pretend that movie, and every other horror film we ever watched together, didn't scare me at all. I also had to pretend I really didn't mind carrying the trash out past the garage in the dark to the dumpster in the back alley.
I admit I'm a fraidy-cat dad, but I could never tell the kids.