We’ve been having a little problem with Lucy, our boisterous six year old middle child.  She has stumbled on the joy of scaring people.  Peaceful Sunday afternoons and late weeknights after bedtime are often punctuated by the sounds of a six year old roar, followed by a very girly squeal from seven year old Rex, or an angry jump from Macy.    That has led to some intense conversations with Lucy, who has been exhorted in very frank terms to stop with the scaring already.  But Lucy doesn’t seem to care.  Where Rex is classically stubborn, and Molly is mischievously resistant to parental restrictions, Lucy just sort of flits away from instruction without it entering her head.  Her disobedience on this point is not so much a matter of defiance as just the feeling that you’ve never had the opportunity to tell her to stop at a moment when she could actually hear you.   So she spends a large part of her time hiding in Rex’s closet, or sneaking in perfect silence up to our bed in the mornings (you can always tell a Milford girl).  And also sitting innocently through lectures that she has decided she can’t hear over the din of fairy music playing in her head. 

Scaring people seems to run in our family.  One of our older nieces went through a scaring phase in which she mercilessly victimized her several younger siblings in contravention of strong parental admonitions.  From what I’m told, her reign of terror got so awful that the littler kids had to walk the halls in twos, constantly afraid of what was around every corner.  When your kids lose the ability to freely traverse the hallways and other passages of your house, family efficiency declines noticeably, because the mom can no longer send kids to grab this or that from the basement, or tell them to go to bed, etc.  Thus, the petty fears of a few little kids become a real family problem.  When this issue threatened to effectively shut down the smooth operation of the entire household, they implemented a new rule effective immediatly.  The no punching rule that is the basic foundation of all other kid rules in all families was lifted for a period of time, limited to scaring situations.  Now there were couples of children roaming frightening halls in terror, but they had their fists clenched, and they were ready to swing.  I believe the scaring ended soon after the new punching regime was implemented.

We had our own scaring epidemics growing up in our big, basementy house.   My little sister used to be terrified of going down in the basement when she was little.  My mom and dad wanted to help push her through that fear, so one night they sent her down to grab something from the storage room (the scariest place in the house, because it was unfinished.  Bare concrete is sooo much scarier than drably painted sheetrock.)  It took a lot of coaxing and real prep-work to get her ready, and they assigned Kook, five years older but possibly more jumpy than she was, to accompany her down into the underworld.  All of which gave me plenty of time to hide in the dark corner at the bottom of the stairs.  When the brave fellowship got to the bottom step after several minutes of a one-step-at-a-time descent, I jumped out and scared the living daylights out of them.   Eliza crumpled instantly to the ground and melted into disconsolate sobs while her trusty guardian high-tailed it back up the stairs at superhuman speed and disappeared without ever looking back.  That left me to enjoy my joke with a weeping, terrified little girl (I still have that image in my head- she was bent over a stair wearing a pale blue nightgown, waiting to be eaten whole by whatever monster controlled the basement).  She wasn’t much fun, and I didn’t get near the enjoyment out of that prank as I had expected to.  My dad called me upstairs and read me a scripture about people who mistreat little kids getting tied to a millstone and thrown into a river.  It was sort of effective.

See, some people just don’t like to get scared.  Eliza is still jumpy to this day, possibly because of some childhood trauma.  One that none of the rest of us had anything to do with, presumably.  And that explains why Macy has campaigned so hard against Lucy’s scaring tear too.  She’s never been able to come up with a principled position against scaring, and her attempts to do so convince no one.  The real point is the scaring has to stop because it’s so effective on her- it startles her and that makes her mad (just like some people are happy drunks and some are mean drunks, some, like my mom, are giggly-startled, and some, like Macy, are angry-startled.  Ten bucks says Eliza is still weepy-startled).  I sort of find myself taking Lucy’s side on this one, because I’ve always enjoyed the gratification of watching someone freak out when startled, most of all Macy.  This began late one college Friday night on a group date.  Several girls had asked out a bunch of us guys, and to avoid getting asked out by one of them, but still be around to watch the awkwardness, my buddy Greg asked Macy out and slithered his way into our plans (his nickname was the Gila Monster, based on a long history of slithering away with other peoples’ girls).  We all ended up at the home of one of the girls, which was large enough that the couples wandered around on self-guided tours when we got there.  Knowing well enough not to let Macy (unattached but a person of interest to me at the time) hang out in a darkened basement with the Gila Monster, I snuck down there while they were looking around.  When they rounded the corner I jumped out and scared them.  I still remember the scene of Macy jumping high in the air and landing in sitting position on the ground, convulsing like her legs were being electrocuted.  It was really cute.  I sort of think she fell for me right there, while simultaneously alerting Greg that she was a little too jumpy for him.  It was a win-win.

And that’s why I don’t mind Lucy going around scaring people in our house.  Sort of takes me back to those sweet early times of being on group dates with Macy while she was with one of my friends.  I guess I’m more of a romantic-startled kind of guy.

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19 Responses to Rahrr

  1. Braden says:

    Very funny, Ry. Dad read that same scripture to me during a rough point in my treatment of younger siblings. He also read the one about saying Raca to your brother. I remember being so excited to have a new mean name that I went right out and called you Raca.

    Of course, this post brings up the sequel to poor LIze’s trauma–when she was sent to fetch something from the basement and heard sinister laughter. She came up and told dad she couldn’t go back down because a scary voice was laughing. He pooh-poohed that idea and sent her back. This was repeated several times. Finally, he went with her to show that everything was fine and they found one of those gag mirrors there that laugh when you look into it. The light was triggering it and poor LIza was vindicated.

  2. InkMom says:

    I may have sort of missed the point of your post (based on my forthcoming comment) but here’s what I have to contribute:

    When I met my husband, I was on a date with his roommate, affectionately referred to as “The Weasel”. Craig actually wouldn’t ask me out for the longest time because he thought I was part of the “Weasel Harem.” I reiterate, still, after 13 years of marriage, that I only went out with the Weasel on a second date because I thought maybe I’d get to see Craig again. I did. And he was smitten.

    With good reason.

  3. Norm says:

    “I still remember the scene of Macy jumping high in the air and landing in sitting position on the ground, convulsing like her legs were being electrocuted. It was really cute.”

    Not to laugh at someone else’s misfortune, but that was well scripted.

    I actually hate scaring people. I unwittingly scare my wife all the time. I will walk into the room and a sense of dread will come over me as I realize she didn’t notice me come in. I freeze. Do I try to sneak out? I know that any second she could turn around and see me and jump up in freight. Do I say something? No, I’ve tried that before and the outcome was the same. Resigned to my fate I wait. She turns around and screams like she is being attacked by the undead.

    I hate that.

  4. Norm says:

    Fright, not freight

  5. Eliza says:

    Finally I can save some money and drop my therapist. Everything is so clear now. ; ) So not only am I permanently jumpy but a sick side effect has resulted. I love love love scaring people. I could look up you tube movies all day long of people scaring the living daylights out of their loved ones and be the happiest person on earth. Nothing is more funny to me. My husband and even sometimes my kids are the victims of my stealthy sneak up maneuvers. LIke, I’m baffled and blown away by Norm, how can you not think that is funny when you startle your wife, you have a gold mine of happiness awaiting you, and your wasting it by not enjoying it. ; ) I guess maybe your compassionate or something lame like that.
    Dang funny post. So much to comment on. The fairy music playing in Lucy’s head is such a fabulous description, that is so my Belle too. Macy being “angry startled” so funny and I can totally picture it. lol. Great post!

  6. Megan Bell says:

    Winner of a post, right here.
    I laughed sooo hard.

  7. Andrea W. says:

    Seriously, fantastic post. I loved your description that Eliza already mentioned of the fairy music in Lucy’s head. I had no idea she was into scaring people, that is so funny to me. Even though, as the mother of that older niece, that was not funny. It was at first though, and I’m so going to use that scripture. Nicely played, Dad. It’s especially funny that Lucy’s not the oldest and she’s such a little imp – so funny. I love that you love it and Macy hates it. I kind of can’t see Macy being jumpy. I love getting glimpses of the ins and outs of daily family life.

  8. Davis says:

    The topic of intentional scaring is a perfect demonstration of my native hypocrisy: Scare me, and I’m filled with rage and then disgust; I scare you, and I die of laughter and tell you that you need to calm down and learn to laugh at yourself.

  9. Macy Bell says:

    I have to say this post did make feel a little better about Lucy’s scaring. Maybe I won’t be quite so bugged tomorrow morning when she jumps out at me.

  10. Molly P says:

    I did not know this about Lucy. But I am not surprised…I have always pictured her as a day dreamer, but with fairy music in her head, amazingly perfect description!

    And, I love all the bell family disciplinary tactics, but lifting the punch free zone rule is amazing. I love it. We are sort of heading that way at our house actually…seems to be more effective than any love and logic book ever taught me. Punch it out and move on! That is not decent parenting, its great!

  11. Ryan says:

    I remember both of those events, Brade. I wonder who has the stronger curse- people who say Raca or who scare children.

    InkMom, I loved hearing about the Weasel’s Harem. I’d be interested to hear about your experiences of being in a real harem. Sounds kind of cool.

    Norm, that is so funny that you try so hard not to scare your wife. What a funny scene that must be. It made me think of Tobias creeping around Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ apartment when she was blind. So funny to think of you sneaking extra hard so as not to be thought of as sneaky.

    Lize, I had no idea you were a scarer. That’s really funny to me for some reason, especially that you’re victimizing your poor little children with it. I admit I love to scare Rex because it’s the only time he lets down his boyish cool and screams like a little girl.

  12. Ryan says:

    Megan, thanks.

    Ange, I hadn’t thought to include that story but then remembered it, and how mad it made Brennan that the other kids were getting scared all the time. The punching was genius. Decent genius.

    Davis, you need to calm down and learn to laugh at yourself.

    Mace, I’m glad you’re working on it. You have to admit her rambunctious roars are pretty cute.

    Molly, uh, I guess I had already assumed you lifted the punching ban a long time ago . . .

  13. Troy says:

    This was awesome. So does anyone else employ the “Snorty Growl” method instead of the “Rahrr” method? I think it adds a little pop to the startle because it sounds more like a real monster. If you’re still a Rahrrer, give it a try and tell me what you think.

  14. maweesa says:

    it cracks me up to think of lucy jumping out and scaring you guys, you getting bugged at her, and she just turns around with a smile on her face. planning her next move…. haha! so funny.

  15. Ben Pratt says:

    Troy, I employ both roars and that very same “snorty growl.” you mention. Nailed it with the name, btw.

    I do some occasional deliberate scaring, but I also enjoy hiding in impossible-to-find spots. When I was a kid playing hide and seek with my siblings, I’d eventually come down from that one bottle-brush tree and find everyone watching TV. Jerks. Now I give my daughters little whistles or hoots to draw them nearer when they start to lose interest.

    I’m kind of like Norm in that I walk around pretty quietly and scare my wife without meaning to, but I usually don’t know that she hasn’t seen me until the moment she jumps. Then again, sometimes I walk more heavily or sniff just to let her know I’m there. So funny.

  16. Jaron says:

    Ryan, if your daughter were truly a Milford Girl she would neither seen NOR heard! If you want to get rid of Lucy’s habit, why don’t you try scaring her? Be a good father and do something that will totally freak her out and cause her to develop a deep psychological block towards scaring people in the future. Go George Bluth on her, hiring a one armed man (it doesn’t necessarily have to be J. Walter Weatherman, although he would be the obvious preference) to be involved in the process. You need to somehow get him in a situation with Lucy where he can lose his prosthetic in a dramatic and frightening fashion, and then conclude the lesson by telling her: “that’s why you never scare”… Seriously, this would be parenting at its best!

  17. Ryan says:

    Oh, to have J. Walter Weatherman at my disposal. My kids would be suuuuch well educated kids. That was a great comment- made me think of what lessons I’m depriving my kids of.

  18. Christian says:

    Milford Girl. Lolol. You can always tell a Milford man.

  19. Davis, lol. I’m the same way. Man, loved this post. I love the idea that she just has fairy music in her head whenever she’s being instructed by parents.

    I should really be working right now….but…I just can’t. Not with so many posts to catch up on.

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