How to Keep a Toddler from Going Up the Stairs

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My grandma had an original turn of mind.

I stayed at her house a lot–she was always available to baby-sit–and one thing she didn’t want me to do, when I was very little, was to climb the stairs. In case I fell. So she kept me from doing that by telling me that the Mick-Mock lived up there, but was never there if a grownup went upstairs. Not ever.

Here’s the cool part: she never told me what the Mick-Mock was. She left it all to my imagination, which was fully up to the challenge of terrifying me. I imagined the Mick-Mock as a ferocious collie, probably because one of the neighbors had a collie dog that used to go into a berserk rage if you walked past on the sidewalk. I was very afraid of that dog; but I knew the Mick-Mock would be worse. Much worse.

But because I was told the Mick-Mock was scared of adults, I was just fine with the upstairs if one of my aunts took me there. That’s where their own rooms were, and I could even sleep peacefully up there at night because they were there, too, and so the Mick-Mock wouldn’t dare show itself.

Later on, Grandma worked the same–I don’t want to call it a scam: let me call it “psychology”–on my brother. He, three years younger than me, imagined the Mick-Mock as a malevolent stick figure. I’ve got to hand it to him: that was cooler than my imaginary killer collie.

We grew out of our fear of the Mick-Mock. Grandma set it up in a way that allowed you to grow out of it. I guess raising six daughters taught her a few tricks over the years.

24 comments on “How to Keep a Toddler from Going Up the Stairs

  1. Here’s the poem my dad used to say when I was afraid to go upstairs because I just knew there was someone or something up there:

    ‘The other night upon the stair,
    I saw a man who was not there.
    He was not there again today.
    Oh, how I wish he’d go away.’

    That was pretty scary to a child – namely me!

    1. He’d nonchalantly walk over to the stairway and look up, as if he really did see the man who wasn’t there. That wasn’t at all reassuring to me!

    2. When I was a kid I was always afraid of Russian Cosmonauts crashing in our yard. Once if finally did happen, it was anticlimactic. 🙂

    3. And I’m pretty sure Joe Collidge would call you a climbit diniyer

  2. Well, my dad did something similar when I was young. For some reason I had nights where I just couldn’t go to sleep and I suppose that instead of lying there in the bed waiting for sleep to overtake me I disturbed my dad’s much-needed sleep with my kiddie noise and giggles (when I’m very sleepy, I often laugh at things whether they’re funny or not). Often he’d enter the room and give a stern warning: “If you don’t go to sleep, the Boogie Man will come and get you.” I had no idea of what this creature looked like. Was he tall or short? Fat or thin? Did he wear a hat or carry a bag? Just the unknowing was frightening enough because if I knew what to look for, I’d be ready him. It was enough to quiet me down. The Boogie Man. Hah!

    1. I have a vague memory of thinking the boogie man was a tall thin ghost wearing a hat – a fedora. I don’t know where that came from either lol

    2. That would never have helped me. You see, although I didn’t live near Edgar Woods (at least, not that I know of), my dad’s name was Edgar. No one ever called him Edgar, but that was his name.

    3. Edgar Woods was named for Edgar School (a hellish place: sort of a stalag for children), which was named for a long-ago benefactor of our town, who has, in these benighted times, been totally forgotten. It wasn’t his fault the school turned out bad, and he also gave us our YMCA, among other things.

      I was told the boogie man lived in the woods, along with undefined creatures called “bums”… but I just couldn’t stay out. And those old, old memories have a lot to do with me writing about Lintum Forest as I do.

    4. Actually it scared me so badly to hear about this Boogie Man coming after me for not going to sleep that I think Rather that I fainted into a dead sleep. I finally did get to see an image of the Boogie Man in the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. In it is a character called The Boogie Man, a huge slug like thing. His little henchmen are cute, though.

    5. You know what’s really interesting about your comment: When I was a kid, I watched a movie starring Peter Lorre where his character was a very strange and creepy murderer in that you could hear the anguished sounds of whom he was murdering but his face was all that was seen. And his face was like a stone – no emotion whatsoever. That scene scared me and I was afraid of Mr. Lorre from then on and wouldn’t watch anything he was in.

    6. Did you tell him about how you thought his dad looked like the Boogie Man?

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