|My son is eight years old and a real handful. Lately I've been losing my patience with him too often. Ever since his mother left us it's been nonstop stress and today, after a tough shift at work I'm particularly on edge. I catch him drawing on the living room walls again with his crayons. God, I just don't have time for this. It's the third time this week. I shout at him,
"Daniel, what are you doing? What have I told you about drawing on the walls?"
Daniel just carries on drawing, totally ignoring me as if I'm not there. He has been playing up more than usual since his mother walked out, but this has to stop. I storm over to him and grab the black crayon out of his hand.
"Don't you dare ignore me!"
"I am sick of you always messing the house up. You carry this on and I will trade you in for a new boy."
"No, please Dad, don't. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Tears always well up whenever I make this idle threat. It might seem cruel but it's the only thing that works. After I threaten to replace him with a new boy, Daniel behaves for a few days. He stops drawing on walls, walking mud all over the house, calling random numbers from the house phone. It's peace and quiet for a short while. Hopefully, it will work this time too.
"Anyway, it's your bedtime."
Daniel says he's not tired, that he's scared of the monster under his bed and even asks if he can sleep with me tonight. I tell him I don't want to hear any more nonsense about monsters. I order him to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed. I can hear him trying to hold back his tears. He reluctantly shuffles slowly up the stairs. I exhale with frustration at having to clean this up. Why can he not just draw on a piece of paper like a normal kid?
The drawing is all black, in a stick man style. Each line drawn was gone over about twenty odd times and he must have pushed the crayon into the wall as hard and fast as he possibly could. The force in which he scribbled into the wall may never wash out. It'll need to be repainted. Honestly, I feel like I'm about to crack. I'm not cut out to do this all alone. I shout up the stairs,
"Daniel, I promise you, I am going to swap you for a new boy. This is too much."
I hear him sobbing. Maybe I'm being too harsh on him. It's the same image that Daniel draws every time, one stick man on top of a bed with another lying under the bed. Both their faces are blank. I think nothing of it as it's a standard childish phobia. He used to draw normal kid stuff like animals or days in the park with bright happy colours. Now these dark drawing are all too common, which I guess is to be expected since he obviously misses his mother. But this time it seems different, like he's put real desperate, vigorous effort into it.
I'll worry about the scribbles later as I need to get some rest for an early shift tomorrow. I'm still so mad at Daniel that I'm tempted to not kiss him goodnight. But as angry as I am, he is still my son and I couldn't do that to him. I open his door and walk in. To my amazement, the room is spotless. All his Lego and train toys are tied, his clothes were neatly put away, even his posters that were half hanging off are now properly stuck to the walls. I've never seen his room like this. He sits upright on his bed with an unfamiliar perfect posture and smiles at me,
"I'm sorry for earlier, Dad. It will never, ever, happen again, promise."
"I hope so. Love you."
"Love you too, Dad."
I smile at him and in that moment I forget about my troubles and remember how lucky I am to have such a wonderful child. I look around his room,
"I like what you've done to the place."
"Well, I guess you want me to check under the bed again before I kiss you goodnight."
"Well, you're turning into a brave little man."
I crouch down to look under the bed anyway, more out of habit as I have been doing this every night for the past year. Nothing, of course, just some clothes in the far corner. I'm about the stand up, when I notice the clothes are shaking, there must be a draft. I reach to grab them but as my eyes adjust to the dark I see something is actually wearing the clothes. As the figure slowly turns towards me I feel an instant paralyzing fear take hold of me. It's Daniel! He's cowering in the far corner under his own bed. But how can this be? His bottom lip is quivering uncontrollably and only now I smell the urine. He's gushing out terrified tears, all the colour from his face has gone straight to his swollen, bloodshot eyes. He looks at me with such intense fear and in his quivering voice whispers,
"Dad, I think the monster is in my bed."