Caedmon has never really had any irrational fears. At least none that lasted long or were serious. Growing up with six younger siblings, there were some pretty awesome irrational fears at our house at any given time. At least, the ones who weren’t afraid thought they were awesome.
One day, Dad brought home a carved wooden “nut” that opened up and had a plastic bug inside it. Completely harmless. But show it to Squirt, and you would’ve thought that plastic bug would eat her alive. It got to the point where she was afraid of even seeing the wooden nut because she knew what was inside. And perhaps a sibling (or two…or more) would occasionally chase her around the house with it. Just the threat of opening it was enough to send her screaming. And it might have been a bit hilarious, you know, in theory. None of us would actually laugh at something like that. Ever.
Fear has come knocking at our house. And I hate it.
Caedmon is suddenly afraid at night. Sometimes he’s afraid of the dark. Even when it’s not dark. Sometimes he’s “just scared” and has no idea why, or at least, he can’t verbalize why.
I thought it was just something he was saying to get out of going to sleep or thinking that someone would take pity on him. (Not in this house, Buddy.) A fear of convenience, if you will. But when he became persistent about it, woke up in the middle of the night, honestly had trouble falling asleep, and even his Buzz Lightyear light was not enough to settle him down, I knew it was real – at least sometimes.
I know for sure that there are times he uses the fear excuse to stay awake, get out of bed, try to sleep in our room, etc. Other times, he’s really afraid. One night he came into our room in the middle of the night and was absolutely petrified. It took me a long time to calm him down. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that he told me about the dream he’d had. Let’s just say, it would’ve disturbed me too. Four year-olds shouldn’t be having dreams like that.
We’ve done everything we can think of. We’ve prayed. He’s got a lamp in his room that stays on at night. We’ve left every light in the hall, bathroom, and kitchen on. He’s slept with his overhead light on. We’ve turned his noise machine back on. Up. Down. Different sounds. Off. We’ve let him listen to music at bedtime. We’ve snuggled at bedtime. We’ve read books. We’ve talked about staying in his bed all night. Taught him to pray when he wakes up in the middle of the night. We’ve let him sleep in the floor in our room. We’ve walked him back to his bed. Limited (even more) the things he’s allowed to watch on TV. He’s in the process of memorizing 2 Timothy 1:7.
I’ve even resorted to pulling out the guilt (just once): “Honor sleeps all night by herself.” I know. Bad Momma.
But honestly? I’m desperate. Desperate for sleep – for both of us. Because when he stays up hours past his bedtime, it’s not good. When he gets up in the middle of the night at least once (usually more) every. single. night. and more often than not takes an hour to settle back down, it’s not good. And then when he’s awake at 6:30 or 7:00am at the latest? Also not good.
Squirt’s irrational fear of the wooden bug wasn’t that big of a deal in the long run. It wasn’t a fear that had a profound effect on those around her. And she grew out of it eventually. At least I hope she did. It’d definitely be awkward if she was at college and freaked out on someone because of one of those things.
I hate fear. I hate what it does to you. And to the people around you. What I hate even more is irrational fear, or fear that can’t be explained or reconciled. That’s where Caedmon is right now. His fear might not be irrational (that dream was certainly worth being afraid of), but most of it, he doesn’t have the words to explain. And because he can’t explain it, we can’t help him reconcile it.
The past two nights have been better. I really hope we’re over the hump on this, but I feel that it’s going to be a battle we’re fighting for quite some time. I’d really love to hear about your experiences with fear (or your kids’ fear) and how you overcame it.