"Mommy, will you stay upstairs for a while?" It's been Keyon's request the last few weeks after I've tucked them into bed. At four years old, night worries and fears seem to have started setting in. Most bedtime excuses I am abrupt about and ignore them or give them ultimatums if they bring it up again, but fear of the dark is something I still remember vividly, and have alot of patience for.
As I was reminiscing, I remember when I was younger with my family ever expanding, my parents built a room in the basement for my sister and I to share. Feeling all alone down there and in the dark, I remember making a quick dash from the stairs to the safety of our bedroom, worried about what could happen that late at night in those 15 feet of space between those two places. Even having my sister sleeping across the room, I would lay awake, straining to hear any noise of life upstair, trying to block out the strange creaks and groans that a house seemingly makes only at night. Most nights, my dad would be in his workshop down the hall, and though I'm sure it drove my mom nuts that he spent so much time down there, it was relief for me. Once that table saw started up, I would be able to relax and fall asleep. To this day, the smell of sawdust and the sound of a table saw is a favourite of mine.
We moved to Chilliwack when I was a teen where we built a room for my 2 sisters and I to share. I sure missed the sounds of the workshop, but we had our own stereo then and fell asleep every night to the soundtrack of "The Last of the Mohicans". Even then, being in the same room with two sisters, I would wake up scared in the middle of the night and try to make noises to wake them up, hoping to be invited to share their bed with them, which never happened. For some reason I never felt able to just crawl in their bed on my own accord.
At 18 I remember waking up in the night and being too terrified to move or call out as I watched a shadow creep across the room, seemingly to "get me". Even once I was married, I was so thankful for the neighbours dog (and I hate dogs) which made me feel safer, as Matt was gone alot of evenings. To this day, I have to have a curtain open or a nightlight on, or I will freak out if I wake up during the night, and when we are camping and it's pitch black, I have to sleep with a flashlight turned on the entire night.
All these memories have resurfaced now that I have to teach my own children how to handle their fears. This last year, they were terrified to go upstairs alone, and as much as it drove us CRAZY, I could also understand it, because I remember going down hallways and being so scared to look into dark corners or dark doorways, or even to close a door and see what might behind it or in a closet. I would picture a scary or ugly face and was so worried that when I looked in those dark places, I would suddenly see that horrible face there, even though I knew how ridiculous it was.
Now with my own children, I put my laundry on when they go to sleep so they can hear noise. I leave nightlights on and the bathroom light. I put music on a sleep timer for them and let the light from the cd player act as a nightlight for them. I promise to check on them in a little while to see if they are ok. And most recently, I will occasionally make myself busy upstairs for a half hour so that my sons can fall asleep more easily. This being said, I don't accept any crap from them at bedtimes, complains, fake injuries and random requests are ignored. Discipline is given and privileges are taken away if these things and my patience with them and their fears are abused.
I only share these things with you all because I think alot of people don't understand childrens' fears of the dark. You can't rationalize fear away, you can't force or discipline it away. I think you can just give them ways to cope with and handle it until they grow up to use self control and their brain is developed enough that they are able rationalize themselves through the moment. So happy bedtimes to you, and don't ever lock me in the dark or I will attack you like an animal and probably bite your face off!