Our family has been a big fan of the show ‘Once Upon a Time’ (OUAT) since it started in the fall. It was so creative and well done. The basic story for those that don’t follow it is….The evil queen puts a spell on everyone in the fairy tale world which sends them all to our real world but none of them have any memory of their other life. The evil queen does retain her memory and becomes the mayor of the town (Storybrooke, Maine) all these people end up in. The main story line revolves around Snow White and her daughter who comes to visit this town at the invitation of the son she gave up for adoption. This little boy, Henry, is now the adopted child of the mayor but senses the truth about the people in Storybrooke. Each episode brings in characters from other fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. This keeps each week fresh and interesting and shows a nice blend of both worlds.
My sons were very interested in watching this when it first started. It is on Sundays 8-9pm so we would let them go to bed a little later so we could all watch it as a family. They are 7 and 9 years old and have watched all kinds of action movies so the show didn’t seem age-inappropriate. After all, they know all the fairy tale stories that the episodes are based upon. Here and there if there was a creepy-looking character, like Rumplestiltskin, we would have them cover their eyes. It was all going fine, this family event on Sundays, until recently. Last night, my younger son came into my room saying he had a nightmare. It was the middle of the night and he seemed truly frightened. He told me that he had a nightmare that he and Shaan were in the Hansel and Gretel episode of ‘OUAT’ and the bad lady ate Shaan. He doesn’t normally have nightmares so he seemed traumatized. I guess at least it shows his loving concern for his brother despite their constant fighting during waking hours. He wouldn’t want him eaten by a witch, at least!
Then in the morning Shaan heard about the nightmare and told us that he once had a nightmare about the Big Bad Wolf after watching the Red Riding Hood episode. That was it. Our little harmless family event that we all looked forward to required reevaluation. We decided that maybe they could no longer watch this show. It seems that even though they don’t seem scared while watching it, it is freaking them out subconsciously. I guess the scary witches, wolves, etc. from these stories seem more distant and comical when they read about them in books but in the show it all seems more real to them. OUAT does not have any graphic violence or show much scary stuff but I guess sometimes fading away from the scenes and leaving your imagination to do the rest can be intense too. So, Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?….apparently my kids are! It turns out that these kids are less fazed by warring superheroes and battling autobots than they are by seemingly tame fairy tales.
These reactions really surprised me but now that I know I have to act accordingly and not let them watch. I wish it was so easy to calm all their fears and take away all their nightmares. The parental need to protect is strong but we don’t always know how. At least this had a simple solution. Now, if only I could ensure sweet dreams and anxiety-free lives for my kids forever.