“What are you scared of, sweetie?”
“Why are you afraid of owls?”
“Owls in the bed.”
“Owls aren’t scary, owls are nice!”
“Owls in the bed at night… Scared.”
“There are no owls in the bed, sweetie. Owls live outside in trees. Owls eat bugs. Owls are nice.”
“Scared… Owls are nice?”
This was my conversation last night with my son, in a darkened room, him sitting up, the bedsheets and his pillows strewn helter-skelter over the twin-sized frame. For half an hour, we had listened to him make whimpers, thinking “He’ll settle into sleep soon-He’ll settle into sleep soon…” only to have it escalate to “MOMMY… MOMMY…” and what sounded like crying. With a sigh and a heave, up I went, looking at the time and wondering just how grumpy our entire family would be in the morning. (edit: very)
He’s suddenly made the distinction of being afraid of things. Never before, even when we first started putting him to sleep each night in his toddler bed, would he ever give us indication of fear. But now, he has said he is scared. Monsters driving cars, spiders, and now owls.
“Of what, sweetie?”
“Like in the song?”
“Spiders aren’t scary. They are itsy-bitsy!”
“Sing dat song? Sing Issy-bissy spiders?”
I wondered if one of the children he plays with in his group at day care had given him scary ideas, since this is a brand new emotional response to the dark and sleep since he was moved to his new group and room. I wondered if a book we had read was influencing him, or one he had read at day care. I wondered if the washing machine going “thumpa-thumpa” below him gave him bad dreams. I wondered if a new night light was in order. I wondered about a lot of things as we lay there in the dark, his squirming little body and poking fingers keeping us both awake as the clock ticked forward towards midnight.
Mostly I wondered how best to combat this newfound level of awareness in my son. The last thing I wanted was for him to be scared. I wanted him to sleep happily. No nightmares or fears.
“Monsters? Why are you scared of monsters?”
“Monsters in the bed.”
“Monsters aren’t scary sweetie. Is Grover or Elmo scary?”
“No… Not doz monsters.”
“Which monsters are scary?”
“Monsters dat drive cars.”
“Oh… They do?”
“Yeah… Monsters drive n’ cars to Sodor.”
“What will they do in Sodor?”
“Go see Cranky th’ Crane. Cranky pick up Thomas.”
“Thomas go on a boat.”
“What about the monsters?”
“Monsters drive in car to Sodor n’ then go play wit’ Percy.”
“Mommy and Daddy drive cars, are they scary?”
“No… Not dat scary.”
“So maybe monsters in cars aren’t scary.”
“Maybe they’re just like Mommy and Daddy driving cars.”
“Mommy drive? Daddy drive daycare, go to work?”
“Yes, we do, sweetie.”
“Mommy Daddy drive.”
“I know, maybe the monsters have fun and laugh and smile in their cars just like us.”
But, I thought, as I went and got his father to take over as my tolerance and exhaustion hit bottom, at least now he can tell me what is wrong, we can talk about it, and I can try my best to help him.
I have no idea if I am getting it right. I hope I am.