Saturday, February 24, 2007

Update: MTYT as nightmare repellent

About a year ago (jeez... time flies when you get old and buy an Xbox 360 anyways), I blogged about a creativity / drawing game that my son and I play called My Team, Your Team (MTYT).

Short version: One of you draws a thing (creature, robot, superhero, bug, whatever) with a power or powers, and the other person then draws a competing thing that opposes (cancels out, stomps, frustrates, distracts) said critter. You go back and forth until bored or the paper is filled up or Dan clearly wins. We still play the game. Fun times.

Well, last night, we found a new use for MTYT -- as a method of warding off nightmares.

Our family likes to watch Animal Planet's "The Most Extreme" together as a family. It's one of a variety of science-y, nature-y, discovery-y shows that are soooo much better than most of the "edutainment" crap that was on when I was young. On the episode we'd most recently DVR'd, there was apparently clip from some old horror movie featuring a giant aligator bursting out of the sewers into the streets above. I think the context was something about toilets, but am not sure, as Chris and Dan had watched this one without me. Anyway, for some reason this particular clip was really scaring Dan.

He's normally not scared by monsters, per se. But something about this clip had gotten him worked up, and we were approaching bedtime, and he's seven, and was all freaked out. Reason wasn't working. It never does with our fears, does it? We tried to explain that alligators would never get that big. That they could never break through streets, concrete, etc. Not. Working. At. All.

Then, for some reason -- I have no idea why I thought of this -- I asked Dan, "How would you beat a giant alligator in a game of 'My Team, Your Team?'"

He immediately perked up and said, "Well... first, I guess, I'd grab him with a giant crane."

OK. Not bad, but not the kind of creativity we usually get in MTYT. So I pushed a bit harder.

"Can you come up with three other, weird-o ways to beat a giant alligator?" I asked.

"Uh... Well, we could get a giant toilet and flush it back down!"

"Nice one. Any other ideas?" At this point, he was really getting into it. With a bit of help from Mom and me, he also came up with:

  • paint a permanent, pink dress on the alligator and super-glue a tiara on it so that it would be too embarrassed to come out of the sewer

  • tie a bell on its tail so that it would always be hearing the bell and distracted and trying to bit itself on the butt

  • something about a parasol; I forget, but it was funny

The point being obvious -- by the time we were done, the sewergator was no longer an object of fear and potential nightmares, but a vanquished foe in the realms of a comfortable, family game. Dan went from scared and freaked out to laughing and in control.

What we fear often grips us most tightly right before bed. Still happens to me, I must confess. Whether it's work, health, family, faith or the NSA... for some reason, the demons do like the twilight times. But if our imagination is the place where unreasoning, fantastic, creative fears like to take root, maybe we just need more ways (and games?) to paint pink dresses on them and flush them back down the toilet.

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