Once upon a time, or more specifically, tonight, I pulled out a small portable heater for the children's room. Because it's in the basement and basements get cold.
And I said, "Children, don't touch this heater, and don't get near this heater, and don't put your toys or papers or anything by this heater."
But when the children hear "don't touch this" they automatically think, "sweet, I'm going to go touch that". So I had to instill the proper amount of fear in them so that the heater wouldn't be played with (which is called "good parenting" in some cultures, possibly).
And I said, "If you touch this heater, or put things in it or near it, it will start a fire and burn down our house. Or you will get burned and it will hurt. A lot."
Except that Opie took my much too seriously. Which tends to happen. Frequently. And Opie is very very talented in the way of freaking out. Like, the other day, he had a fingernail that needed trimmed. And usually we don't have to trim his nails because he chews them. Because he's a person of the nervous sort, and chewing fingernails kind of falls into that category sometimes. But this particular fingernail was on his broken pinky finger, so it was wrapped up for a month and didn't get chewed off. Hence, the needed trimming. But Opie was afraid that we'd accidentally chop off his finger or something, even though we were only using baby nail scissors. And he wouldn't let us get near his finger. So then Husband had to grab him and put him in a headlock. And then I had to trap his legs so he couldn't kick out of it. And then we had to pin his arms so that they couldn't move. And THEN we were able to trim his pinky fingernail. And you would not believe the amount of screaming and time that involved. Because Opie is VERY VERY talented in the way of freaking out.
So when Opie heard, "You will burn the house down", he started thinking about his toys going up in an inferno, and then he started freaking out about it. Loudly. So we checked the smoke detector to show him that we would know if there was a fire and be able to save his toys. But when the smoke detector did it's "we're checking you" beep Opie decided that it was phenomenally scary.
And since Opie was screaming and crying and carrying on, that made Monkey start screaming and crying and carrying on. And then Number Four started screaming and crying and carrying on. And there was a lot of screaming and crying and carrying on.
So Husband and I stayed downstairs trying to descarify the children for about 15 minutes. But when we turned the light off and came up stairs, guess what?
SCREAMING AND CRYING AND CARRYING ON. And it just wouldn't stop.
So then I had to go back down the stairs. And I had to turn on the light. And I had to have all the children get out of bed to check out the "scary" portable heater and look inside of it, and touch the "scary" lights on the top of it, and also I had to go into great detail on how it worked and why it would not in fact burn the house down.
And then, Monkey tried to put his finger in it. Where the fan was. So then I had to go into great detail about how we never put our fingers in a fan. Then Monkey says, "But I can put my face in it and talk funny." And then I had have an in depth conversation about never putting our tongues in a fan. Or our toes. Or our hair. Or our toys. Or our bums. (You never know what Monkey will decide to stick in a fan, so we covered pretty much everything.)
Then, FINALLY, I made the children get back in their beds and I attempted to turn off the light.
The children were horribly afraid of the smoke detector going off. Because IT BEEPS and it's SCARY. So I showed them how I could stand underneath it, and it wouldn't beep. And then I showed them how if I walked past it over and over it wouldn't beep. And then I showed them that I could jump under it and wouldn't beep. And it wouldn't beep if I waved my arms, or yelled at it, or put a toy by it, or looked at it, or thought about it from across the room.
And then I turned the light off.
But Number Four was still not convinced. And I was out of ideas. So I rocked her like a baby in the rocking chair. For about 5 minutes. Except that Monkey thinks he is Number Four's twin, so if she gets rocked like a baby, then so does he. So I rocked him for about 5 minutes.
And just when it was looking like everyone had FINALLY calmed down and was going to sleep, Opie says, "If my favorite toy got burned up in a fire, I would be really sad."
AND ALL OF THAT WORK WAS UNDONE. All the rocking and the jumping and the explaining and the 45 minutes of effort - WORTHLESS.
Until I outsmarted them all and brought up Santa. And then they were all so excited to tell me what toys they wanted for Christmas I was able to slip out of there in no time. Which really makes me wish I would have thought about bringing up Santa in the first place.
And who cares that I sort of promised them a pony and 3 puppies on Christmas day - THEY'RE ASLEEP NOW, and that's all that matters.