Stephanie Ockhuysen is a mum of two, reporter and columnist based in Taranaki.
OPINION: It’s 7pm, it’s been a long day, my eyes are heavy, and I’m dreaming of putting my head on the pillow and scrolling TikTok.
But there’s a problem. There’s a wolf in my son’s bed.
He’s been calling out, trying to tell me. Of course, I can’t see anything, but in his 3-year-old brain, the wolf is sitting right beside him, stopping him from being able to lay down and get some much-needed shut eye.
You may be thinking, a wolf is a strange creature for a child to be afraid of and have nightmares about. But in our house, wolf chat happens daily since my toddler was introduced to the story of the Three Little Pigs.
If the story wasn’t a major part of your childhood, let me fill you in.
There are three little pigs which each build a house, one out of straw, one out of sticks, and the third out of bricks.
The wolf comes along to try and get to the pig. He knocks on the door, they won’t let him in, so he huffs and he puffs and he tries to blow the house down.
He is successful in his attempts at blowing the first two down, but not the third, because the bricks are too strong.
My son absolutely loved the story, but the wolf really did a number on him.
We’ll be in the middle of something when suddenly he shouts “quick, let’s hide, the wolf is coming”.
Or he will pull every single pillow and blanket in the house out to the lounge to build a house to keep the wolf from eating him.
We always tell him he’s safe, that mummy and daddy would never let anything happen to him, and that our dog, a tiny, extremely un-intimidating cavoodle, would scare any wolf away.
This particular night, when the wolf was in his bed, physically obstructing him from being able to lie down, I had been reading Maggie Dent’s book Parental As Anything.
In the book she talked about validating kids’ feelings.
So if they were to say there’s a monster in their closet, rather than going “oh don’t be so silly, of course there’s not a monster in your closet”, you validate what they are feeling scared of.
With this in mind, I went into his bedroom and went along with it.
“What can we do to get rid of the wolf,” I asked.
With so much adorable sincerity, he looked up at me and said I should throw ice on him.
“OK,” I replied.
Out of the room I walked and pretended to get some ice to pour all over this damn wolf.
Then I asked, do you want me to get him out of your bed?
“Yes,” he replied.
The next five minutes then entailed some of my finest acting, perhaps even Oscar-worthy.
I bent over the bars of his cot and reached down pretending to wrestle and grapple with this wolf all while grunting and mumbling things along the lines of “get out of here wolf”.
I lifted this wolf out of bed, walked over to the door and kicked him out.
Thinking the issue was sorted, I went back to my toddler ready to tuck him back in and leave him to it.
But alas, the wolf was back, and now he was multiplying.
I did the same thing, bent over and heaped the many wolves out of the bed and proceeded to kick all their butts out the door.
I also taught my son how to throw the wolves out of his bed, so if we were so unfortunate for this to happen at 3am he’d know how to tackle the issue himself.
So there we were, throwing these wolves out until my son looked up at me and said “all gone, just the friendly wolf is here now and I can sleep with him”.
My mum used to tell me stories of having to kill monsters my brother could see in his room and I always thought how ridiculous that was.
Turns out there’s nothing ridiculous about it when you’ve got a scared toddler who needs to go to sleep.