That big thing when you were little

I was reading through the comments of my post about Nerfous Nelly’s on Friday (as an aside THANK YOU to each and every one of you that leaves a comment here on the blog or on facebook. I hope you know that I read them all, try and reply when I can and most of all appreciate your views and thoughts on any given subject – I love that you take the time out of your busy day to join in the conversation so thank you!).

Anyway, there was a comment from Joolzmac about how her daughter (who is now 27) used to worry every single night that the open fire in their lounge room would set the house on fire, and as her bedroom was closest, she would be the first to go. I was instantly transported back to my own childhood, and my own fears that were SO real and SO scary that I can still remember the feelings today 35 years or more later.

You see there was a kid that was abducted? Maybe…or attempted to be taken from their bedroom in the night. We lived in a nice north western suburb filled with nice federation houses and gardens and I remember being SO scared when I heard this. Maybe it’s even filled with half truths from the playground, with a little of my own imagination thrown in for good measure, but that’s what it was based on: A little girl who someone tried to steal from her bed while she slept, on a normal weeknight.

From then, every single night I laid in bed TERRIFIED that the same thing was going to happen. Maybe I mentioned it to my parents, maybe they got tired of telling me I was silly, maybe I was ashamed to tell them (again) but every night for years, there I sat in bed, never wanting to open a window for air, even on the hottest of nights, because surely…I was next! There was no such thing as air conditioners, or fans either, it was the breeze from outside, or nothing at all. So I went with nothing at all.

Every night before I went to sleep, being the good catholic girl I was, I said my prayers but it went like this “God I love you with all might, please let me be safe through the night” and that was my mantra every night, for many years. Can you imagine! All that worry! Poor little Beth!

Then it was the fear of vomiting after Mum and Dad went out one night and I woke up with a bug throwing up in my bed. For years after that I couldn’t eat spag bol given the murder scene I woke up to. Then it was that awful Aids ad with the Grim Reaper, maybe all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies I watched with older cousins while parents were having fun at a dinner party. All little moments of pure fear.

On the radio yesterday I was listening to how kids are scared by the news that they see and why wouldn’t they? Terrorist attacks, Nuclear threats, global warming, Donald Trump…it’s all pretty scary isn’t it? I know my girls will always tell us whatever is on their minds, and yet I’m sure they still have their own little things that go through their minds.

For me now, when I wake up I am more scared by impending BAS lodgements, school fees, not having started Christmas shopping and my inability to stop eating complex carbohydrates amongst other BIG 3am whales like hoping my kids feel confident and loved and safe and why didn’t we realise that having a third kid after a long break meant that we would have kids at school FOREVER and the ageing population and parents. That kind of thing.

I’d love to know what your childhood fear was?
What do you think our kids worry about these days?
And what is keeping you awake with worry right now?

The illustrations above are from Edward Gorey you have to check out The Gashlycrumb Tinies to be really freaked out!


  1. My son is obsessed with Terrorists. I swear he thinks they are going to bomb our house. We were lucky enough to travel through Europe 18 months ago but trying to convince my then 12 year old nothing would happen to him on the streets of Paris took months of negotiations. All went well in Paris and we headed to the airport to fly home to be confronted with a bomb threat at the airport. Military and police with huge guns everywhere. No-one speaking English and getting any information out of anyone about what was happening or where we should go almost impossible. However, that being said, we saw first hand how amazing the armed forces and police are. Nothing happened, we were allowed to enter the airport and few home…. Unfortunately the News is scary these days and kids have easy access to it all.

  2. I too lived in Sydney and I heard on the news that a child called Samantha knight had been abducted. I was petrified. I drove my parents crazy. I couldn’t go to sleep, I wouldn’t go to sleepovers. I made them put extra locks on my bedroom window. I didn’t get over it till I was about 12!

  3. Dianne Whittle says

    For me it was the abduction of Eloise Worledge – I remember her name, I remember her face, and I still think of her today. She was 8 when she was abducted, I was 10. She disappeared from her bedroom when someone cut the flyscreen on her window. She has never been seen since and no one knows what happened to her. After that story I was terrified to sleep at night, and refused to sleep with the window open for fear someone would break in. I refused to let my kids leave their windows open at night and I won’t have the windows open at night no matter how hot it is. I’m 51. I still think of her.

    • OMG Dianne – ME TOO!!! I often think of her and wonder what happened and also wonder what happened to her family – how did they cope and go on. I was not worried that it would happen to me though for some reason. Poor darling, how could anyone be so cruel?

    • The name Eloise Worledge immediately sprang to my mind too. Amazing that 40 years later I still remember her name. I remember being scared it might happen to me. I had previously always assumed you were safe in your own home. Sad that her parents never got closure.

    • So scary and how awful for her family. That poor girl.

      • This is the one thing that gave me the terrors as I remember from childhood too.
        The flyscreen & the bed underneath it. I still feel uneasy thinking about it & I now refuse to let my daughter sleep near the window.

  4. I was terrified of our house burning down and me being the only one in my family to survive, after I was having a sleepover at a friend’s house and saw a house near her place burn down. I still have a huge fear of my house burning down at night and me not being able to get my family out.
    I don’t use tell people though because I’ve been teased and made fun of too many times.

  5. I remember being paralysed with anxiety when I hadn’t done my homework. I’d procrastinate like crazy and then just try to go into denial about it and then freak at the last minute. Not the best strategy for a rule following anxiety sufferer, but I was young and my brain hadn’t fully developed, right? I became really triggered by the sound of ceiling fans whirring, because that’s what my brain felt like, and that’s the sound I heard when I one night broke down and confessed everything to my parents!
    On a more serious and dark note, I became really stressed for a while that my dad might suddenly abduct me from school and try to murder me. He was the MOST LOVING dad ever. Never abusive. Never violent. A big softie and someone who even works and lives in a compassionate way. We were really close. I was a daddy’s girl. BUT…my best friend (and his sister) was murdered when I was in grade 3 by his abusive father. I had never known anything other than having a loving father, so in my mind, any great dad could suddenly snap when you least expect it. I think he caught wind of it (and was also really great at grief counselling) and he asked me about my worries and said it was OK and understandable for me to have worries at night. I confessed what I was worried about and bless him, he didn’t flinch. He reassured me and from then on I knew I was safe.
    These days I worry about losing my mind, mostly! This pregnancy has done a number on me! As for my son, I try to limit his exposure to the news (he’s 6) and when he does hear things we talk about how the news media tends to focus on terrible events because they’re sensational and how to analyse what we’re hearing/seeing and remember that it’s a bit skewed or that it isn’t something likely to affect us.

  6. When I was young (under 10) I was afraid of being left behind somewhere – that my parents would forget to take me with them! I think it stemmed from an incident when I was 3 or 4 and got separated from my mum in a shopping centre. For many, many years after that I was afraid of getting lost! I became a great map reader, and, even now (I’m 38!), despite having access to gps, I always look up a map before leaving the house if I’m going somewhere new!

    Then, when I was 11, I went to my 15-year-old cousin’s slumber party and ended up watching the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie. I had Freddy Kruger nightmares for the next 10 years!

    I have two boys, 7 and 5. My 7 year old has done the bedtime wide-eyes-and-wobbly-lip over the concept of ageing and death – “I don’t want to grow old in this world!’ If my 5 year old has any fears, he has yet to express them, but I daresay it would include missing out on dessert after dinner 😉

    If I’m honest, it’s thoughts about ageing, and losing parents and loved ones that is likely to spin around my brain at 3am.

    Btw – I heard a podcast about Edward Gorey the other week – one of my favourite books when I was 8–10 was his fabulous pop-up book The Dwindling Party. It’s about a family visiting a spooky stately home, and they disappear one by one. In the end, only one young boy is left. It’s really kind of grim. In a fit of nostalgia, I looked up the book only to discover it’s pretty rare, and a good copy would cost me upward of $80… I’m still thinking about it!

  7. I think I was most worried about my step dad. He was an alcoholic & abusive & Jesus Christ those years were hard.
    One of my boys went through a stage of worrying we’d have a home invasion ( because of a news story!) & the fact that hubby was fifo made him feel unsafe. He worried I wouldn’t be able to protect everyone & id end up hurt. There were many a night I had him ( & his older brother ) in my bed.
    These days I am a supreme worrier. My biggest, strongest fear, the one that will bring me to sobbing tears if I let it take too strong a hold is that I will die & leave my young family. I just can’t deal with that thought. I’ve actually thought at times I need to see someone about it because it’s so irrational but it gets to me so often. I get so annoyed at myself for letting my mind carry me away into such a horrid thought pattern.

    • I hear you Reannon. My mother has had breast cancer twice. She is fine, but it has made me terrified of dying before my children are self-sufficient. She recently told me that the first time she was diagnosed (we were young) her only thought was that she had kids to raise and that she couldn’t die. The second time was not as bad because we were all adult.

      • That’s how I think- if I can get all my kids into adulthood it’ll be ok, they’ll be ok. But Jesus I wish I didn’t even worry about it!

    • Oh yep this is me too. My dad and both brothers died young, all leaving kids under 6 (including me), and I have a completely irrational fear of dying and leaving my baby without a mum… And a fear that something will happen to her like she’ll get cancer or something awful. I really have to keep this worry in check because it can easily spiral out of control!

    • Oh lovely! What can we do about it anyway? That’s the thing right with all these fears…if it happens there isn’t anything we can do. You’ll be OK xxxx now I just want to give you a big hug. Consider this one a virtual one OK xx

      • You are so right Beth- if I die, I die & one thing I’ve learnt from having people I love die is that life does goes on for those left behind so I know my kids will be fine. I just don’t understand why I fixated on it so often? I’m just fucking bonkers right?!
        And thank you x

  8. My biggest fear – that continued way into my teens – was SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION! I was convinced that one day I might just ignite on fire and be dead without warning. I worried and worried about it. Then one day I read somewhere in the paper that it wasn’t a real thing and the deaths could all be explained by something else and just like that my fear was gone! However, being of the now peri-menopausal age I sometimes feel hot enough that I just might catch on fire 😉 hahaha

    • Wait until you’re menopausal and the whole concept will become very real again…ha ha. My father was really interested in spontaneous combustion, so were, too. It still intrigues me but real data is hard to find. The most recent, unverified , case was in China.

    • MY word I have NEVER even thought about that!! Maybe now I will….ha!

  9. Trish symons says

    My greatest fear was getting lost when I was out with the family – the worst place being the Royal Easter show. I had recurring nightmares about being left at bus stops and not knowing how to get home .

  10. I meant to comment on your Nerfous Nelly post. But i’m glad you’ve mentioned it again. I’m a Harper. And I haven’t grown out of it (at nearly 29 years of age). I am the worrier, always will be. Give me any scenario, any set of circumstances and I will fear the worst and believe disaster is not only possible, but highly likely. I can’t help it. The worst case scenario always feels entirely possible to me. I have been shy, nervous and self-limiting my whole life. I wish my parents had ‘pushed’ me to overcome some of this as I was growing up. I wish they had gently encouraged me to take a part time job whilst I was still at school, to become a confident driver and get my P’s before I left home, travel alone once I was old enough, assert myself when necessary and self-advocate… etc etc. I hope these aren’t issues for Harper. But I can only say this, it helps a Nerfous Nelly to build on these skills when the safety net is still firmly in place. I am sure she’ll take on the world confidently though, with you as a role model.

    • Great advice Kate thank you SO much for sharing. I will keep it in mind for sure…such a fine line to push and when to pull back isn’t it? x

  11. When I was five I lived in PNG. There were signs around saying ” beware of crocodiles” .anyhow for years I had to jump onto the bed from a distance cos I was paranoid of a croc under the bed!! Just read an article on a snake under a bed in FNQ so thats now giving me heebie jeebies!!

    • We had a red belly black snake come under our back door when I was about 5 and for YEARS I wouldn’t straighten my legs in bed in case there was a snake there! I was too embarrassed to tell mum but I was always so glad if she sat on the end of my bed of fluffed the doona because I know the snake would come out!

    • Stay away from QLD and the tropics I say!

  12. To this day I can not sleep with my hands down beside the bed. I am 57 today in fact lol. I was told that monsters live under our beds at a very young age and for the life of me I have tried, even just to make ME realise it is silly. But I can’t both arms/hands must be on top of the bed, never ever at the side. Silly isn’t it.

  13. Oh we are a funny bunch!

    Mine was having my ear cut off – Paul Getty was kidnapped in 1973 (the year I was born so not sure how I know this) and his captors cut his ear off. I still sleep with the covers over my ear because I got into the habit of always covering it so that no one would cut it off while I was sleeping.

    My other one is related to a Lassie movie, I think. Family was travelling in a car and had an accident. Some died or were unconscious (can’t remember details) and there was no one to look after the dog. It went missing – long story – happy ending blah blah blah but it completely freaked me out. Even as an adult I hate travelling in the car with pets. Always admire people who just pop the dogs in the car and head off on an adventure.

  14. As a kid I had a recurring nightmare that I was in a room that was a swimming pool, but there was only a ledge about six inches around the pool. So the walls, the ledge, the pool, and it was a sinister pool for some reason. And Mickey Mouse (wha..?) would chase me around that ledge wanting to drown me.

    • Mickey Mouse is an interesting twist for sure. I had a dream about a pool too – filled with sharks. Like at a sea world type place…terrifying!

  15. My mum used to let me watch Australia’s Most Wanted and then wondered why I was PETRIFIED of the dark and PETRIFIED of some creepy weirdo breaking in in the middle of the night (both fears that persist today at 33)! In addition to the creepy weirdo breaking in, I now wake at 3am worrying about the house burning down (after my husband casually mentioned all our powerpoints are overloaded)!

Speak Your Mind