I checked the closet.  All I saw was a weeks-old birthday balloon, desperately clinging to the last of its helium, floating eerily just a few feet off the floor as it peeked out of the partially open door.  Nothing more sinister than that.  Same under the bed.  Aside from some impressive dust bunnies and a few wayward beanie babies, the space was dark and empty.  No glaring red eyes, no dagger-like fangs, no low ominous growling, nothing. Once again, dad rescues his little girl from the dreaded monsters that inhabit her bedroom after midnight while she makes the transition away from the nightlight.  If there were monsters here, my heavy footsteps coming down the hallway shooed them away, although they’d return several more times throughout her childhood.  I long for the monsters that ran at the sounds of a parent’s footfalls.  How do I tell her about the monsters in the world that terrify dad?

maybe it's safer in here after all....

maybe it’s safer in here after all….

After years of assuring our children that there is no such thing as monsters, they reach the age where we take a different tack and try to warn them about the true evil that exists in the world.  The monsters are now friendly faced boys, maybe someone they knew as an acquaintance who would eventually trick them out of the house with a false Facebook profile, only to murder them and leave their body on the secluded banks of a river in Maine.  I’m sure the parents of fifteen-year-old Nichole Cable gave her ample warning about boys and stranger danger, being aware of your surroundings etc.  For good measure they probably had the talk about meeting people on Facebook, about not revealing too much private information, no sexting, all of the pitfalls they could think of to keep her safe.  But Kyle Dube was no imaginary vapor hiding among the dust bunnies under her childhood bed and he lured her away from her home, away from all the warnings and advice her parents could arm her with, all to no avail.  Sometimes, the magical persuasion of the monster is too strong for the mind of the young.

Sometimes the monsters look all too normal and need no persuasive spells, their position of power or respect the only force they employ to sway the young against their better judgment.   Sometimes, it’s just unfathomable that someone you know could be so dark and devious.  Certainly Amanda Berry would have no reason to assume that the father of her friend and neighbor, Emily Castro, was a danger to her as she hitched a ride home with him from the local Burger King.  Could her parents have warned her that the father of her classmate might possibly chain her naked to the ceiling for ten years, using her as a sex slave, eventually forcing her to give birth in an inflatable kiddie pool?  What kinds of depravities do we have to imagine in order to warn our children about them?

How do we then, battle the monsters that don’t fear the footsteps in the hall, those that can exist in daylight, never mind the strongest nightlight? How as a father, do I do battle with an evil so deranged, so perverse that I can’t even imagine it clearly enough to describe the possibility of its existence?

How do we tell our children that their fellow humans are the most dangerous things they’ll face on the planet and still expect them to function in this world?