Conversations With Toddlers | Ghost Baby and The Big Man
A few weeks ago, Max woke up late one night, and point-blank refused to go back to sleep, no matter what we did to persuade him.
In vain, Terry and I took it in turns to sit with him and cajole him, but, finally, having lain in bed, watching Terry on the baby monitor as he desperately tried to rock Max to sleep, I headed downstairs, took Max out of his arms, and carried him up to our room.
I’d just gotten us both settled down – Max lying on top of me, as is his preference – when Max suddenly raised his head and stared into a corner of the room.
“Mummy?” he said with interest, “Who’s that big man over there?”
<INSERT THEME MUSIC FROM PSYCHO>
OMG, I thought: this is it – it’s finally happened! A portal has opened up between this world and the next, and Max’s childish innocence has allowed him to peer through it. I KNEW this would happen one day!
I didn’t say that to Max, though, thankfully. Instead, I feigned disinterest, and asked him what the hell he was talking about. WHICH “big man”? Over WHERE?
“Over THERE!” he said again, clearly frustrated by my failure to get up to speed with the situation. “Who IS he?”
Well, my heart almost stopped. I mean, I’ve heard about this kind of thing before, obviously: the children who can remember past lives, or who claim to be able to see ghosts. It was one of the reasons I was reluctant to procreate at all, to be honest, because who wants a tiny person in their home just terrifying the living daylights out of them all the time? WHO, THOUGH?
Not this girl: so, when Max continued to insist there was a “big man” standing “over there”, I decided I was going to have to nip this in the bud, before … well, before I literally died of fright, really. So, I did what any grown adult would do: I closed my eyes really tight, so the Big Man wouldn’t be able to get me, then, speaking as firmly as I could, I told Max that there was nobody in the room, and that he should just lie down and go to sleep.
“Yes there IS a big man, mummy!” he said – and, I swear to God, I could almost HEAR him rolling his eyes at me. “He’s walking over to the bed!”
And then I died.
Then I died twice.
I was just about to die a third time, when Max piped up again.
“Oh!” he said, clearly disappointed. “He’s gone!”
PHEW. And also: THANK GOD.
At this point, I was pretty freaked out, but I was also really, really tired, so I figured I’d wait for Terry to come up to bed, pass on the news that, hey, a Big Man was haunting our bedroom, and then go to sleep.
“LOOK MUMMY!” said Max. “THE BIG MAN IS BACK!”
“OK, Max,” I said, finally working up the courage to open my eyes. “That’s it: WHERE is this Big Man?”
“He’s standing next to the bed!” said Max, in a “The call is coming from inside the house,” tone of voice. Just as I was about to descend into full-on panic, however, I noticed the direction he was staring in, turned my head to the side… and found myself looking at the baby monitor on my bedside table. The baby monitor that was still showing Max’s bed. Max’s bed, which Terry was, at that moment, standing next to, putting the blanket back on it, or whatever the hell else he was doing in there, I have no idea.
TERRY WAS THE BIG MAN.
Max, meanwhile, was clearly a bit of a wind-up merchant: which is why, when he started talking about ‘The Baby’ last week, my instinct was to just shrug it off. ALWAYS REMEMBER THE BIG MAN, AMBER. NEVER FORGET.
“I can see a baby when I’m in bed!” Max said conversationally one morning. “Who is it, mummy?”
“Good one, Max,”I replied. “You’re not catching me out that easily. Not twice, anyway.”
As the day went on, however, he kept on talking about “The Baby”, and I kept on assuming he was just imagining it. He was probably seeing some kind of shadow on the wall of his room, I assumed – or a pattern on the ceiling, or one of his soft toys, even. There’s any number of things that, during the dark watches of the night, could start to look like a baby, obviously, and I’m sure we’ve all heard about the brain’s tendency to attribute human features to things it sees at night, so there would 100% be an explanation for this freaking baby. I mean, we’ve all “seen” things at night, which haven’t actually been there, haven’t we? (HAVEN’T WE?) I personally wake up at least once a month, convinced my bed is full of crabs, for instance, and how often does THAT happen in real life? Like, hardly EVER, right?
So, I blithely ignored all talk of this Ghost Baby… until I was putting Max to bed that night, and he waited until I switched off the light before piping up with, “Will I see the baby again tonight, mummy?” Which is EXACTLY what you need to hear when you’re sitting in the darkness with your back to the door, isn’t it?
Well, I questioned him a bit, being careful to just sound interested rather than freaked out. He couldn’t tell me where The Baby appeared or what it looked like: he COULD, however, tell me that it always carries “a basket of food”, which it gives to Max, before going away to get MORE food, again “for Max.”
So, OK, this was just about him wanting me to give him chocolate or something then, obviously. Relieved, I left the room, and forgot all about the Ghost Baby… until the next night, when Max once again asked me if “the baby would come”.
“Where do you see this baby, Max?” I asked, sitting down beside him.
Max thought for a few seconds.
“I see him when I’m in London!” he finally announced. “Just when I’m in London!”
“Well, THAT’S OK, then,” I replied brightly. “Because you’re not IN London! So you definitely won’t see the baby!”
“Yes I will, mummy!” said Max. “I’ll see him!”
“Nope!” I said cheerfully. “Because the baby isn’t real, Max. It’s just a dream you’ve had in your head.” [He understands the concept of “a dream inside your head”, and, by now, I was convinced that was what must have happened here. To be honest, he seemed more curious than scared, really, but I didn’t want his interest in this baby to turn into worry, so I figured I’d just be matter-of-fact about it, and try to get him to focus on something that didn’t make me think of the opening of every bad horror movie I’ve ever seen…]
“But… the baby moves his legs when he walks to my bed?” said Max, confused. “So he IS real!”
Twenty minutes later, I finally managed to creep out of the room. No babies had been seen, Max was finally asleep… and, the night after THAT, he once again waited until I was almost out of the room before raising his head from the pillow and saying, “Can you leave the door open, mummy? Because, if you close it, the baby will come!”
So, as far as I can tell, there are 3 basic possibilities here:
01. There’s something in his room that looks like a baby when the light is off. I’ve had a good look around, and there’s nothing obviously baby-like in there, but, I mean, who knows what things look like to him when he’s half asleep, right?
02. He had a dream about a baby with a basket of food – in London – and, because he’s kept on talking about it, he’s now convinced it was real.
03. There is a Ghost Baby. In our house. Probably trying to kill us, really.
Now, I should probably add here that it’s definitely not number three, is it? For the record, I might be easily freaked out, but I don’t actually believe in ghosts: not even ones bearing gifts of food. (And, just for the benefit of the believers out there, no, our house is neither old, nor has it been built on an ancient burial ground, as far as I’m aware. It’s had just one former owner, and while, OK, he DID have a son, who was presumably a baby at some point, that son was about 6 or 7 when they moved out, and – crucially – was alive. So it’s not him. There is no weird atmosphere, cold spots, or anything else that would make us think a ghostly presence was a possibility, either, so, sorry, I should probably have made it clearer right at the start that this post was not actually going to be particularly interesting, shouldn’t I? Whoops.)
So, that just leaves options one and two. There was a brief moment when I thought Ghost Baby was, in fact, Boss Baby – when I suggested it, Max readily agreed that it was… but then went on to claim that, in addition to Boss Baby himself, he was also being visited at night by:
01. Boss Baby’s big brother
02. Boss Baby’s mummy and daddy
03. That girl that’s on the TV right now – what a coincidence!
04. Some jelly beans.
So, I mean, he’s an unreliable witness, right? And, in obviously related news, he is TWO. I think I see what’s happening here. (Well, OK, I don’t: but I do know it’s connected to the whole, “Being a toddler,” thing…)
For the last few days, though, Max has continued to mention Ghost Baby at random intervals during the day, but, when I ask him if he seen him during the night, the answer is always “no”. (And, despite the, “Leave the door open…” comment, Max has never actually seemed to be scared of the baby, really: in fact, when I told him it wasn’t going to come one night, he was really quite disappointed…) It looks like Ghost Baby, whoever he was, has given up on the midnight food deliveries.