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Article: Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

andrea richards

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me

My three-and-a-half-year-old has suddenly developed nighttime fears - not of monsters, ghosts or bad guys but of shapes and shadows. She wakes up in the middle of the night terrified, her eyes big as saucers and is so scared she can't speak. She doesn't have to awaken me because I'm already awake, my maternal spidey senses zoned in on the fact something is wrong. Also, she still sleeps in our bed. It's not like my spidey senses have to be that good. She doesn't grab on to me for comfort or say a word, she just lies there, stiff as a board. But I can feel the fright on her, heavy as our wool blanket. I tell her I'm there, that's she safe, that everything is all right. I ask what's bothering her, if she needs to go to the bathroom or to get a drink. If she's too hot, too cold, too wired to sleep. Finally, she'll whisper, "it's scary," and I'll realize she's staring down the ceiling fan ("It has eyes!" she told me one night) or a shadow on the wall. Or some nights, she's just staring into space, alarmed by nothing but an empty void.


DIY Shadow Puppets

She acts so freaked out it usually scares me, too - though, of course, I don't let her know that. I spook easily - always have. I've never been able to handle horror movies, true crime novels or even the cheesiest of ghost stories. (I'm still recovering from Twin Peaks, which I watched two decades ago - at least once a day I have to will myself not to think about Bob crouched behind Palmer's couch.) So I'm proud that I can play it cool with my kid's fears - reassuring her in the midst of her panic and casually chatting about how we all feel afraid sometimes. I figured out this works better than telling her she has nothing to fear, which not only disregards her feelings, but it is also a boldface lie. Because let's be real, there's some stuff out in the world we really should be afraid of. Thankfully, the ceiling fan over my bed is not one of those things (it's securely bolted to the ceiling, I checked). Developmentally, it's totally normal at her age for her imagination to run wild - day or night. Those shadows on the wall could be anything, and no doubt they are occasionally scary stuff. Or just the darkness itself spooks her. That's okay, too. Darkness is real and part of life - I can't stop the sun from going down every day. But I can hang out in the dark with her until she's comfortable with it. A little lullaby can go a long way...fight the scary stuff with a soothing song. Maybe something from Lullaby Renditons of Elton John would do?


Read more of Andrea's posts below! .     Sweater Weather                            Here Comes Your Man             Conflict Resolution!

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