While Ruby continues to scare herself silly with stories of ghosts, zombies, and witches – clearly just for the sheer thrill of it – Georgia is struggling with a very real and very deep fear.
It is obvious that she is actually troubled by it, experiencing genuine anxiety. And of course, as her mother, I need to be there to soothe her, to let her know that I understand her fear and that I will protect her at all costs.
The problem is that I find her fear both inconvenient and also kind of hilarious.
Georgia is terrified of the Roomba.
This is a problem because I freaking love the Roomba. I like to outsource as many of my housecleaning jobs to machines as possible, and Georgia is standing (and shaking with terror) between me and my goal of never having to sweep up stepped-on cheddar Goldfish ever again.
I bought the Roomba as a birthday present to myself more than a year ago, and I think I have successfully run it four times – one of which was last week when we had company coming over so I paid Ruby $2 to watch Georgia in her room with the door shut so she wouldn’t know that Roomba was running.
Even when Roomba is just sitting quietly on his base like a good robot vaccum, Georgia can’t handle it.
“The Roooooooomba,” she screams, pointing at it and backing away. “The Roomba’s gonna get me.”
“The Roomba is not going to get you,” I tell her patiently, again and again. “The Roomba is OK. The Roomba is our friend.” She doesn’t believe it.
About six months ago, she started trying to give everyone pep talks.
“That’s Roomba, Gigi,” she told my mom. “It’s not going to hurt you.”
“That’s right, Georgie!” I said, thinking maybe we were turning a corner.
“That’s right, Mama!” she responded. “Roomba’s not going to hurt you.”
“Georgia, is Roomba going to hurt you?” my mom prompted gently.
“Yes,” Georgia said solemnly, nodding her head.
So we finally just packed Roomba away, and I didn’t rediscover it until two weeks ago, when I was unpacking the very last of the boxes from our move in August. I thought that it was at least possible that Georgia had outgrown her fear, and so I plugged Roomba in again, just to charge.
When she saw it, she immediately fled to her toy kitchen, wedged herself between it and the wall, and refused to come out until I had hidden the Roomba under a blanket.
Last night, as she was drifting off to sleep, she said, “Mama, you going to sleep, too?”
“Yes, baby,” I said. “As soon as you go to sleep, I will go to sleep.”
“Roomba going to sleep?” she asked.
“Yes, Roomba is asleep, too.”
“No,” she said. “Roomba will wake up. Roomba will wake up and beat you!” She began to hit me with her tiny fists. “Like that,” she said insistently. “Roomba will beat you like that!”
That was one of the creepiest things I’d ever heard, but I stayed calm. “Oh, no, honey. Roomba is not a person. Roomba will not beat anyone. Roomba is a friendly vacuum.”
“Roomba is a friendly vacuum?” she said. “Nooooooo. No, not a friendly vacuum.”
“Do you want Roomba to go away?” I asked her, and she nodded emphatically.
So now Roomba is packed away again, and my floors are covered in crushed-up cheddar Goldfish. But at least my baby feels safe.
By the time I can bring Roomba out of hiding, my floors will probably not even need to be cleaned quite as frequently because I won’t have a toddler running around making messes.
And even though that sort of sounds like paradise, I know in my heart that I will miss it.