I think back to all the things that traumatized me as a child like Jaws. I probably shouldn't have watched it when I was five because I don't swim in the ocean to this day because there are things in the ocean that will eat you until you die. Sharks are scary and I don't care how many cute movies they make about sharks that don't eat meat, they're still scary. Strangely enough, I also watched Cujo at a very young age but I have never been terrified of dogs. Probably because Cujo, while mean and frothy was not as big as a house which is why I have been wondering who thought up Clifford the Big Red Dog. There's no way they thought this concept through. Sure, he's cute and the little girl loves him, but look at him. He's huge. Realistically, the national guard would have blown that damn thing up within moments of him running off with a dinosaur bone from the Smithsonian (assuming they have dinosaur bones there. I'm pretty sure they do, right?). There are other things to consider, as well. Like pooper scoopers for a dog that size. There's also chew toys, vet visits, leash laws etc. I'm just drawing on my experience with dogs here and Clifford is bound to be a lot of work. That aside, I've never really considered Clifford to be a threat. Until earlier this week.
Some of you already know that I work at a day care. Usually I say preschool because that sounds better to me than daycare and insinuates that I do other things besides change diapers and wipe noses but that just about covers it. I have a class of 8 (count 'em) two year olds. I love them. No, seriously. Two is my favorite age because they say really funny things but they can't yet talk enough to drive you insane. My class in particular is infamous for being quite fearless in that they like to climb on things that tend to fall over easily, smack each other in the face with toys and open the door and run down the hall into the great unknown. They do not fear "time out" and they certainly don't fear my wrath because my "wrath" melts away when they say things like "I love you" when I'm trying to put them in time out. Imagine my overall delight when I found the true weakness of the toddler. Namely, Clifford.
Earlier this week we had a book fair at school and the book fair mascot, it was decided was going to be Clifford the Big Red Dog. What this involved was a special visit to the school by Clifford himself, slightly scaled down to human size (thank God) but a dog as big as an adult that walks around on two legs is still a little much and needless to say, disconcerting to the children. Having spent one Easter as the Easter Bunny at the mall, I had a pretty good idea how my kids were going to react to Clifford. Although it turned out that I grossly underestimated Clifford's ability to terrify small children, I was still against having Clifford pay my kids a visit. You know dogs, though. Can't tell them anything.
As soon as Clifford set his big red foot on the playground, mass hysteria ensued. There were toddlers huddled together in the plastic treehouse, crying. Some were running around in blind panic. One was sitting in the toy car just crying but obviously too afraid to move. One girl just stood there alone screaming. Two of my girls (the smart ones) immediately ran to me and clawed, cat-like into my arms (I have wounds) as Clifford stood there waving and making a show, seemingly oblivious to the chaos he was creating. It was like watching Godzilla in stage format where all the actors were small children. The best part was the person who was actually in the Clifford suit was a woman who works at the school. Incidentally, her twin children are in my class. Her son was one of the ones crying and running around trying to find a safe place. So, in response to that she began to chase him. Chase him. Around the playground. In the Clifford suit. I already had two kids in my arms so I watched helplessly as the poor boy ran for his little life. I was also sort of laughing as I watched. What? It was kind of funny.
Once Clifford realized that the children were going to go into shock if this continued, he (she, whatever) left and we began the long process of putting our lives back together. As with any traumatic event, this was a long process and it was a good 15 minutes before the children in my arms would let me put them down. When that was accomplished, I began the arduous task of pulling the children (unwillingly) from the plastic treehouse saying, "Clifford's gone. He's gone. He's not coming back." Those poor children. They believed me, too. Hell, I believed it myself. I thought, surely she won't come back after seeing the mess this caused. HA! Ten minutes after I got everyone calm and collected and we had regained a sense of normalcy, she comes back out onto the playground! Well, to be fair, she just stuck her head out the door but it was a gigantic Clifford head and I said, "What are you doing?!" and she left. The kids were on the verge of having another nuclear meltdown until I said, "It's ok, it's ok! I chased him off. He's gone." Suddenly, I was the hero of the day! I chased away the giant red dog with my holy, God-given powers of dog shooing.
Later on as I was reflecting on the cluster fuck that all of this was, I realized that I now had power and there is nothing quite as relieving as having power over 8 two year olds. Not only did I have super awesome Clifford shooing abilities, I also had the power to summon Clifford at will. Not really, but they didn't know that. So, that afternoon, while trying to get my kids to pick up the mountain of toys scattered around the room, I said, "Do you want me to go get Clifford?" The results were phenomenal. I don't think I could have cleaned up the toys quicker than they did. Anything to keep the big, red menace at bay! Only one boy did not heed my warning. He opened the door and took off down the hall. I yelled after him but he didn't listen because two year olds have this special substance in their ears that shields their brains from hearing the voices of adults. All children have this and it stays with them until they graduate high school. Sometimes longer, depending on the child. Anyways, I threatened with Clifford, but felt hopeless that I couldn't actually produce Clifford. Until the kid runs around the corner and bumps right into him. It was providence, really. He ran faster than I have ever seen anyone, child or adult, run. All the way back to me at which time I said, "See? You better listen or I'll call Clifford."