On Tuesday, I put on Sesame Street for Oscar while Danny was napping and I was nursing Miles. It was an episode called the Help-O-Bots. In the episode, Elmo, Telly, and Rosita dress up as the Help-O-Bots after Chris reads them the story of Rico, The Very Helpful Robot.
We came into the episode after the story, when the monsters were already dressed as robots. Oscar got very quiet and was watching them closely. The scene played out and the monsters-as-robots exited the stage. Then, Rico, the actual robot, came into the scene.
Oscar, who was standing up, started backing slowly toward me (I was sitting on the couch, nursing.) He pointed to the screen, "What dat?" he asked.
"That's a robot," I told him.
"Yes, a robot."
Then, Rico started talking.
And Oscar completely lost his shit.
He started totally flipping out in a way I have never seen before. He was terrified. He was instantly sobbing and cry and climbing over top of Miles into my lap and he stayed in this state until I was able to get to the remote and change the station.
"It's okay, Oscar, the robot is all gone. The robot is all gone."
"Robop all gone! Robop all gone!"
"It's okay, bud, he's gone."
For the rest of the day, he'd just randomly stop what he was doing, get all weepy and ask, "Robop all gone?" and he'd keep asking until he felt sufficiently reassured that the robot was indeed gone and not returning.
But, there are kind of a lot of robots in children's programming and we saw like every single one of them over the next few days and he had a mini meltdown every time.
Two nights later when I was putting him to bed, he somehow got it in his head that there were robots outside of his room. I had to show him there were none, but he was so scared. When I took him too the door he was clinging to me, like he thought I was going to throw him to the robots.
He proceed to sob in my arms, about robops downstairs, robops coming out of the TV(!!), robops coming, robops hurting! Being that I'm also pretty afraid of robots myself, he was kind of creeping me out.
After almost and hour, I got him to calm down and go to sleep. The next night when he started melting down about robots, he and I erected a robot force field outside of his door and that seemed to work pretty well and he fell asleep much more quickly. Each night that followed got easier and easier, though he has been waking with (robop filled?) nightmares.
Part of me wonders if he didn't sense me getting tense when the robot came on screen. I mean, I wasn't exactly afraid of Rico, but I was thinking about how I don't think robots are cute and funny and I'd prefer them to not be on shows my kid watches.
Whatever the reason, my kid is afraid of robots. He's completely undisturbed by thunder, loud noises, strangers, doctors, snakes, bugs, dogs, the water, bigger kids, falling down, the dark, monsters, or anything else little kids are supposed to fear. Just robots.
I think I'm going to invest in some new bedtime reading.