Fear

               For all of the Kian fans out there wondering when you’ll get to read his stories, please hang in there for one last post about Kaveh and how I managed to scared him half to death. Then I’ll tell you what happened the night Pooneh went into labor– I promise my stupidity will simply astound you.

              When Kaveh was about two years old, I took him to Disneyland by myself one day while Pooneh was working, and somehow got it into my head that taking him on “Pirates of the Caribbean” would be a good idea. On a hot summer day, I figured it’s a nice cool boat ride out of the sun with funny pirates to look at. I wanted to take him on it before but Pooneh and others thought he was still much too young since “Pirates” can be frightening for kids that age. Well, to be honest, I was tired of the same wimpy rides like “Small World” and “Winnie the “Pooh,” and didn’t want my son growing up to be too “soft.” Since it was just him and me that day, I made an executive decision and boldly stepped onto the pirate boat. When we plunged into darkness under the ominous parting words from the talking skull, “Dead men tell no tales,” Kaveh said it was scary and climbed up on my lap for the duration of the ride, while maintaining a tight grip on my arms. I felt bad that I took him on the ride, but afterwards he acted very excited and became obsessed with pirates. He picked out the costume of Captain Hook for Halloween, sang along with Captain Feathersword from The Wiggles, and kept choosing pirate stories for me to read to him at night.

               The next time we went to Disneyland I decided to take him on “Pirates of the Caribbean” again. He didn’t look frightened in line, so I figured his fear was conquered and pirates were now his friends. As we plunged into darkness once again, he said in a soft voice as if mesmerized: “Sscaaarrryyy” and climbed right back on my lap again.  Uh Oh, bad idea, I thought. I remember thinking how cute he looked when he covered up his eyes with his hands in certain parts, but I still felt like a guilty schmuck. 

               Everything for the next few months became scary for him. He didn’t want us to read any more stories about pirates, and before going to sleep at night he asked us to take one of his storybooks out of his room. He wouldn’t tell us why, so after a few nights of this, I decided to browse through the book–lo and behold, I found a story about Captain Hook. Aha! I asked him if this was why he didn’t want the book in his room, and he meekly nodded his head. I was actually impressed that he remembered me reading Captain Hook to him from that particular book since he had about ten different storybooks that all appeared basically the same to me. Besides this, we couldn’t leave the closet door open because he saw pirates in the shadows. It took at least an extra half hour to put him to sleep at night, not to mention calling us to his room in the middle of the night. Of course, I took the blame from a distressed and sleepless Pooneh. “I told you not to take him on that ride again!” 

               Besides getting emotional in the “terrible twos,” the other characteristic that all parents are familiar with is disobedience. I know you’re not supposed to discipline a child in their twos because it’s just their emerging personality. The “Parenting” books instruct us to reason with them, offer them limited choices, distract them from annoying habits, and so forth which I tried hard to follow.

               At Christmas we set out our two “nutcrackers” as a decoration at the bottom of our stairs. They are about two feet tall and one holds a staff, the other holds a sword. I was a little worried that they might look imposing to Kaveh since he was only a little taller than they were, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by them. In fact, he spent a lot of time moving them around the room, dropping them, taking out the staff and playing drums on the nutcrackers’ heads, and so forth. We kept trying to tell him to stop fooling around with them because they were getting marked up from all the drumming and also one of their heads had fallen off after he dropped it.

               Finally, I’d had enough because he would completely ignore me as he continued to beat on nutcracker’s head with the staff. I tried to think of something that would get his attention and bring his maltreatment of the poor nutcrackers to an end. Impulsively, I blurted out, “Kaveh, if you keep doing that he’s going to sneak into your room at night and crack you over the head with that thing!” Pooneh shot me a look like I was a maniac. She stared at me for a few seconds and then told me I was sick. I knew immediately after saying it that it was the wrong thing to do, especially since fear was such an issue with him. Anyhow, it seemed to pass right through his ears, because he continued to beat on his stupid head. Once I became assured that I didn’t scare him after-all, I had to leave the room because I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous and brutal that sounded, as though I invoked a curse on my own son!

Not long after the nutcracker incident, I asked Pooneh and her dad (Baba) if they wanted to take Kaveh and drive up Mount Baldy to the ski lifts. It is a beautiful drive up the mountain towards the eye-popping snowcapped peaks. Then we’d hop on the ski lifts for a fun ride up to the top of the mountain where he can play in the snow and build a snowman. Pooneh is not a big fan of cold weather and didn’t think it was a very good idea for a two-year-old, but Baba thought it sounded fun, so off we went.

It was fairly cold when we arrived at the lifts, but not too bad. We had Kaveh bundled up tight with gloves and a hat as well as a hood from his exceptionally puffy winter jacket to keep him warm. Kaveh wanted to ride up with Baba, so I went first and they went in the lift behind me. I was kind of worried about them getting onto the lift because they looked kind of anxious. I had a vision of them falling out and tumbling down into the snow with me helpless to do anything. Fortunately, Baba was very familiar with ski lifts; they hopped right on and settled in.

I was so entranced by the majestic beauty of the mountains around me, and the tall pine trees covered with glistening white snow beneath me. The only sound was the creaking of the cables and the soft patter of icicles and snow melting off the trees. I remember thinking to myself that this was such a good idea and Pooneh really missed out. I kept looking back and waving to Kaveh and Baba; they looked like they were enjoying themselves too.

After about ten minutes of climbing it began to get very cold, and there was a constant frigid wind hitting me in the face. The higher we ascended, the temperature kept dropping…and we still had a long way to go. The quiet serenity was broken by a faint, but familiar cry of distress behind me. I knew how miserable he must be from the cold, but he was also starting to freak out, probably because the poor kid didn’t know when this ride would end. Baba had his arm around him, and we did our best to distract and encourage him, saying we were almost at the top. But that just wasn’t the case. We kept ascending with no end in sight. It kept growing colder and windier, biting at my face, burning my fingers and toes. I couldn’t even imagine how his tiny body must feel. When the snow began to fall, he really started bawling like a full blown panic. “I want to go home! Let’s go back down right now! I WANT MY MOMMY!”

I was really getting worried but continued in vain to try to cheer him up. “Kaveh, look at the snow. Isn’t this beautiful? Pretty soon you can make a snowman!” I don’t even know why I said that because there was no way in hell we were going to stay out in this bitter, bone-chilling wasteland any longer than we had to in order to get back down. My face was so numb and frozen that I couldn’t get my words out right.

When we finally arrived at the top, I scooped him up and hugged him close. He wanted to get right back on the lift to head down and go home. I told him that we need to warm up in the restaurant where we can order some hot chocolate and relax before going on the lift again. It was only a short distance, so we trudged through the snow toward the shelter. I was sure he would calm down once safely inside the warmth of the restaurant, but he still wouldn’t stop crying. I’m sure he just saw a bunch of strangers in a dimly lit and unfamiliar tavern, and the only thing he wanted to do was go home to Mommy. There were no tables available, only some chairs at the bar. After a few minutes of deciding what we should do in the midst of his unrelenting cries and protests, we decided to abort and make our escape from this God-forsaken mountain top. It wasn’t until our faces finally began to thaw about halfway down that he finally stopped crying.

I thought of this day last week when we dropped him off to attend his first semester on campus in Pittsburgh. We froze our asses off checking out the Fort Pitt area and rode the Duquesne Incline up Mount Washington. Thankfully, the trolley was enclosed, but it was a stark reminder of those lifts since the temperature was in the low 20’s, and the poor California boy’s toes were freezing numb while taking pictures of the view from the top.

Since I’m on the subject of fear, I’ll recollect the story of the “Monster Tree.” We were at my brother-in-laws house for a Persian holiday called Char Shambeh Soori. It is really a celebration of spring, and one of the rituals they do for fun is to jump over a fire and make a wish to ward off bad spirits. Since we had little kids, we just put out some candles in the back yard instead of a fire and jumped over them. Kaveh and his cousin Tara, who is a year older than Kaveh, were watching from behind the screen door and didn’t want to go out in the dark. I supposed the candles made it look pretty creepy for them.

Later that night, I heard Tara telling Kaveh that there was a monster tree that she pointed to in the back, and that was why she didn’t like to go out in her yard at night. I stepped past them and walked toward the tree, saying “Look kids, there is nothing to be afraid of.” But I had a few beers in me, so instead I thought I would have a little fun with them. As they peered out from the screen door, I went under the tree and shook the branches vigorously while yelling “Help! It got me; I’m being attacked by the monster tree!” Instead of getting a rise out of Tara (who didn’t seem to care), I heard this loud, shrill, shrieking sound coming from my poor little Kaveh. When he was able to catch his breath, he started yelling “Daddy, Daddy!” over and over and crying hysterically! Oops, I did it again. I went over to console him and say I was just having fun, but the room quickly swarmed with everyone in the house coming to investigate. Alarm and concern widened everyone’s eyes as they looked at Kaveh’s terrified face and then at me for an explanation. I told them I went to the tree to show them it wasn’t a monster, but he got scared anyhow. Luckily none of the other adults were nearby at the time to see what really happened and spill the beans on me.

Published by swojtowich

I am a physician, story writer, husband and proud father of two sons. I enjoy travel, exercise, and reading/writing books.

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