“You won’t ever see a wolf in Australia,” Tracey assured her yet again. We both sat on the edge of her bed trying to calm her down. “We don’t have them in this country.”
“Except in zoos,” I added.
“There are no wolves in Australia,” Tracey asserted.
Unfortunately I really wasn’t on my game, cause I added, “Unless you count dogs. All dogs are wolves really.”
Tracey gave me a look. It seemed she was about to huff and puff. Suddenly I saw where I’d gone wrong – I had attempted to help. I went to leave the room.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” Tracey asked me, hugging our distraught child in her arms. She handed Miss5 over to me. “You don’t drop the doggy bomb and then leave. You drop it and I leave.” And she did. “Good luck.”
Time to fix this, I thought with more confidence than my track record warrants. I suddenly remembered something I saw on QI the other night.
“Honey,” I told Miss5, “wolves don’t attack people. Hardly at all. They’re actually quite timid. They would run away from you if they saw you. Wolves aren’t like in the story.” Suddenly I was struck with an idea. This’ll fix it, I thought. “And anyway, Jazz is a dog and she loves you. She doesn’t attack you, does she?”
“Yes, she does!” bellowed Miss5.
“No, she doesn’t,” I corrected her. “She licks you and jumps on you when you’re playing, but she doesn’t attack you. Okay, so sometimes her claws scratch you and you bleed a bit…”
Tracey was watching all this from the doorway, like a bystander might watch a car accident happening in front of them at a set of lights. Shock, horror, odd fascination written all over her face. As I see it, this was her fault: I was leaving the room.
Eventually I (somehow) settled Miss5 down enough to leave the room myself but I was back within minutes.
“There’s something clawing against the wall!” she screamed. “It’s trying to get me!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked. I stopped. I listened. Then I heard it. The branches of the tree outside her room were brushing against the house. ‘It’s only the tree,” I told her soothingly, even though the patient man in my head was letting out a deep sigh and thinking about raising his voice. “Remember the tree? I pointed it out a few months ago. Do you want to go outside and see the tree?”
“No!” she said forcibly. “There’s wolves out there!”
“But we’re inside,” I told her. “Wolves can’t get us while we’re inside our house.”
A scary thought suddenly occurred to her. I saw it happen. Her eyes became wide and she stammered, “Our house is made of wood.”
Now it’s my turn to feel stupid. I mean it’s not like I haven’t heard the story of the three pigs. What was I thinking? I really should have bought a brick house.
“Please go to sleep.”
“No!!” she said even more forcibly. “I’m scared.”
“What if you sleep in with your big sister?” I asked.
I set her up on a mattress on the floor next to Miss8, but she didn’t look any less frightened.
“What are you afraid of now?” I asked.
Her eyes darted left then right. “Rats.”
“Me too,” I said. “But we don’t have rats. We have mice.” Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I realized my mistake even as the words left my mouth. I tried for the save. “But not for months and months. They’re all dead now.” Too late.
So back in her room and again we were discussing the bad rap the poor wolves get in world of fairy-tales.
“Seriously, they’re pussycats.” She’s in prep. It’s not like she’s going to do a DNA comparison. “There aren’t any actual wolves around here and you’re safe and sound in your home.”
“But what if a wolf does come?” she asked, keeping the topic going in that special way only little kids and drunks can.
“Not a worry,’ I told her. “We have something much scarier than a big old wolf.”
“Jazz?” she suggested.
The sincerity on my face must have done the trick because she was asleep within a few minutes.