Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fraidy Cats

When I was a child, nothing scared me as much as nighttime. Except maybe a thunderstorm at night. Once the thunder and lightning started, I would lie in bed, trembling, trying to work up the nerve to go to my parents' room and beg them to let me sleep with them. Two things deterred me: for one thing, I knew they'd say no. But mainly, as scared as I was in my room all alone, I was even more scared during the endless scurry to their room. I never felt as vulnerable as I did awake and out of bed after dark.

Amazingly, I never really grew out of this. If Chip is coming home late for some reason, I will stay awake in front of the TV with all the lights in the house on until he comes home. If he is out of town, I will leave every light in the house on, but with my bedroom light dimmed (as if that somehow makes it okay). When Chip is home, and we have already "closed down" the house and gotten in bed, I used to make him get up for anything- from water for me to checking on a noise, etc.

Then we had kids. I couldn't expect Chip to get up every time a baby cried! Not to mention the fact that I was the one with all the breast milk. So I had to fight this fear in order to get up and walk through the dark house to the hungry baby or wimpering-from-a-nightmare child. It's still the only reason I'll get out of bed after the lights are out.

But now we have Connor. Connor who is scared to death of lightning. Connor who doesn't want to sleep alone because he's scared of the dark. And what am I supposed to say to make him feel better? Remembering my own childhood fears, and how much they were allayed by the presence of an adult (or currently by the presence of Chip), I am tempted to move him into our bed for good. (Except for the fact that he fidgets endlessly and freaks out if any part of you touches him.) Chip thinks that if we don't indulge him, he'll just get over it. I am worried that he is genetically destined to be scared of the dark, whether we indulge it or not. It's hard to know what to do, and he can sense the uncertainty in me, using it to his full advantage. When I lie in bed with him at night, as part of our "tucking in" ritual, he starts in. "Mommy, why can't you sleep with me? Why do adults get to sleep together?" I have to admit, for a kid who doesn't know anything about, uh, adult companionship, this must be a perplexing question. Adults are (seemingly) unafraid at night. Why would they need backup? Why is it that Mommy can't stay with him while Daddy goes to sleep in Chloe's room, just in case she gets scared? I answer the best I can, explaining feebly that this is just the way things are, and maybe when Chloe gets older they can sleep together some nights. And I'm sure they will, because she's my kid too, so she probably doesn't stand a chance against nighttime. But until then Connor will have to brave the dark, and I'll have to hide my guilt over making him do it alone.


Cathy said...

I was afraid of the night, too, especially after I saw Salem's Lot as a young kid (I don't know who actually allowed THAT to happen). After seeing that film, I feared that there was a vampire floating outside my bedroom window wanting to come in. That fear stayed with me for a looong time.

Memphis Urban Sketchers said...

Sister, I am right there with you. Unfortunately I have to get up to pee EVERY NIGHT, so I practically run to and from the bathroom, then sit on the edge of my bed with my feet up while I have a drink of water - the idea of having my feet so near the dark underside of the bed totally freaking me out. At the age of 35. I don't think this will ever change. (Also - never has helped that we saw "Signs" the weekend we moved into our house.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, i'm a complete scaredy pants. This has been the case since i saw "Poltergeist 2", "Nightmare on Elm Street", and "The Lost Boys". I would sneak into bed with my little brother, so the monsters would get him first. (No joke.) Now, I have to make sure that the closet and the bedroom door are closed. The thought of seeing anything move past the doors totally freaks me out. Also, ever since all of those stupid movies with little creepy kids, I have to be extra careful on my nightly bathroom breaks. The thought of one being in the shower staring at me through the glass doors gives me the shivers. Thanks a lot "Dark Water".