Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Light in the Dark

One of the (many) things I can say with certainty about Samantha is that she has always been an incredibly fantastic sleeper.  Not to make y'all jealous or anything, but we got her onto a schedule within a few months after her birth, and never looked back.  There's never been any question about when it's bedtime, when it's naptime (erradicated except for boring weekends now), when to wake up.  Try to keep her up past the usual, designated time, and she'll beg to go to bed.  Try to awaken her before the usual, designated time, and you've got quite the challenge on your hands.  Good luck...  Her internal body clock is a well-oiled machine. 

I'm not prefacing this post with that paragraph because she's not sleeping well anymore.  Well, not exactly.  She's still sleeping well, but we've added a new element to the pre-bedtime mix. 


I mentioned fear before.  I believe I said something akin to the fact that we're not really sure if Samantha understands the concept of fear.  Sure, she can be startled, or she can feel uneasy in anticipation (like when going to the doctor), but I don't think that's the same as actually being afraid of something.  In my previous post I'd also said that she had begun to mention that she was afraid of the dark.  Guess I should have seen this coming, eh?

And of course, we didn't believe her.  It had to be her just testing the waters, trying on a new concept for size, mimicking something she'd seen on tv, or heard spoken of by her classmates.  And she'd just said it a couple of times, a few months ago.  And we pooh-poohed it, and nothing ever came of it, and she stopped saying it.

Until this week. 

Ahhhhhgggghhh, these crazy, crazy stages kids go through!!!  How something could be perfectly acceptable one minute, then completely, irrationally unacceptable the next. 


Sammi and I stayed at my parent's place last weekend.  The room we sleep in is very, very dark.  Like the kind of near-suffocating dark that your eyes just can't adjust to.  I always keep my cell phone on the nightstand next to my pillow so I can a) see what time it is and b) see.  Gotta love all that ambient light.  She's slept in that room many, many times before, and she's never thought twice about rolling over, shutting her eyes, and going to sleep on her own while we grown ups socialized in the living room just outside the door.  But this time she was insistent that she was afraid of the dark, and wanted a night light.  So I turned the night light on, and she was mostly satisfied. 

And then, for the last 3 nights, she has insisted that I put a night light on in her room, saying she 's scared of the dark.  The first of these nights, she actually came out of her room about an hour after she'd gone to bed (and I'm pretty sure she'd already been asleep for most of that time), and when I went up to take her back to bed, she said she was scared.  I actually forgot the nightlight lastnight, and she immediately jumped out of bed, climbing over me as I knelt on the floor next to her, to go turn it on.  And even that didn't fully satisfy her - I'm feeling thankful for the dimmer switch we have for her overhead light...  "Thank you, Mommy," she'd said quietly and with real sincerity when I gently raised the lever. 

My big fear is that by turning on a night light I might be indulging her, giving in to a negative behavior, an irrational fear, perpetuating that same behavior going forward.  But I think I know better...haven't kids, just about every normal, red-blooded kid on the planet, been afraid of the dark since the beginning of time?  And isn't there a huge market in children's night lights for a reason?  I suspect this is just a stage that she'll outgrow eventually, but without experience of other children to draw on, and without a clear memory of my own childhood experience in this matter (I think I had a night light, too), I can't be sure, so I'll ask you all...what do you think?

Oh, and in just about the same period of time, she has stopped watching Backyardigans altogether.  Suddenly.  And she has told me she's scared of the Backyardigans.


Sounds like a whole 'nother set of issues to me...


Kathy said...

I don't have advice in fear of the dark, I would think that it will last a while, and by the time she is a young adult, if not much sooner, it will go away. But my question to you is, what on earth is scary about The Backyardigans? Have you asked her? Maybe she's tired of them, and just confusing the words?

Beth said...

I think that it's natural to dislike complete darkness. Humans are not nocturnal animals, and for millenia we were unprotected in the dark. That said,I'd guess that this sudden phobia didn't just naturally occur. Maybe Sammi picked up the idea from one place or other (school friend/discussion/TV show). Hannah is afraid of the dark and we have several night light scenarios (her room is quite large, with nooks and crannies). I keep a night light in her toiletry bag for hotels or unfamiliar guest bedrooms.
We've had no luck in squelching her fear--even declaring a "Teenagers don't use s night light" scam.
She will sleep without her night lights if someone else is sleeping in the same room (sleepover guest).

Oh well, a 7 watt bulb isn't going to be the end of the world.

lovemy3 said...

Both of the boys went though the scared of the dark phase. My middle son has to use a night light unless he is sleeping with someone. My oldest grew out of it. Best of luck!!!

Alicia Llanas said...

Elias understans fear since mmm cant remeber when was the first time. maybe sometimes they get it from us, and we dont have to say anything, just maybe with our actions?

I have 3 big fears, i cant ride a bike, i cant drive and i cant swim. and with swimming i've seen Elias the same fear I had at his age (he was 5 at his first swimming class) although i didnt cried like crazy because i didnt wanted the other kids to see me, but i did hide, or invent an excuse.

anyway, we constantly tell Elias that 'no pasa nada' translated to 'nothing will happen', im here with you, or whatever. in the sleeping issue first i have to say that im so jelouse because Elias is the worst sleeper ever, and he just recently began falling asleep alone in his room *yay* and sometimes he dont wake up at 3 am *yay*

But now, Elias always asks to have the light of the hall on, he will fall asleep, but only if that light is on. but he is not afraid of the darkness in the house, because he wakes up every night at 3am since i remember to come and sleep with us, and its dark.

and Eva she recently also began to ask that she wants the light on of her room, so i let her, and when she fall asleep i also turn it off.

and there is no crying or no whinning because if they wake up later and the light is off.

The Annessa Family said...

With Brad their is usually a really good reason, we just don't know it. He's scared of pools and fire. The pool thing is because he saw something on TV where the cartoon kid needed the lifeguard to save him. The fire thing was from a flaming dish at a restaurant that caught him off guard.

Both seemingly easy things to get over, but he's been absolutely petrified of both water and fire for more than 30 years.

We finally did get him to like bath tubs though!

Sorry I'm no help, I think it's normal. And I agree it's a fine line between indulging the fear and giving her the security she needs. And lets be honest, the dark IS scary for a lot of reason. Maybe try and get her to talk about what is scary about it. Ask her what she thinks could happen in the dark that might be scary. If she's just getting uneasy about not being able to see her surroundings, then a nightlight is brilliant. If she's afraid of something bad happening, or monsters, or whatever...then you have a deeper issue to talk with her about.

You got this mama!


CJ said...

Em sleeps with a night light on. I see no harm in it. I actually sleep with one in my room as well. It's not a fear thing, but a "when I wake up I can immediately orient what's going on", especially since we're still breastfeeding at night (obviously with the baby and not Em!)

I don't NEED it, but I LIKE it.

Rob Monroe said...

Abby is currently pretending to be afraid of the dark - until it's actually night time. It's insanity! Hopefully this is something that will pass for Sammi!

teal915 said...

My kids have night lights, and we leave the hallway light on until they are asleep. If my 4 year old wakes up in the middle of the night, he insists that I turn the hallway light back, and I always do. My 5 year old went through a phase of being more scared, but she is getting better. A few nights ago, my 4 year old came into our room in the middle of the night, tugged on my husband's arm, and said that someone touched him in his room. My husband said it freaked him out lol. He went back to bed, but then came back in a few minutes and said there was a little man looking through a window at him haha. He did end up going back to bed, but that was a rough night. He ended up climbing up onto the top bunk and sleeping with our 15 year old.

Monique said...

We have night lights all over our house. I grew up with them and like them now as I can see when I need to move around at night. My kids like them for when they have to get up to go to the bathroom etc. I always acknowledge their fear and try to get them to tell me why they are nervous about it. That sometimes helps. I am sure she will outgrow it.

Rochelle said...

Yep, just a phase she will outgrow. Aidan just now at 8 doesn't need night light anymore. But, of course Alayna now is in the same boat as Sammi so we have moved it to her room!

Meriah said...

I was terrified of the dark, growing up. I'm very sensitive to Micah's fear and have always complied with leaving the lights on. I have a nice soft overhead light for him that he can control from one of those extension cords that we got from Ikea. He likes it a lot. Before that though, I used christmas lights - nice little soft light. I still use the chrismtams lights in other rooms...

If it goes away, that's fine and if it stays, that's fine. I'm still a little afraid of the dark, personally, but not much else, so it's okay if it stays too, I think...

Jenny said...

I only have ONE child out of my six who is not afraid of the dark! We have night lights and hall lights on every single night all night...Any one driving by would think we are up all night cause so many lights are on. And to be honest I am scared of the dark...Always have been.

It may just be a phase Sammi is going through...A nightlight is a good idea :)

Russell has just recently gotten into the Backyardigans...I can't wait until he is "over" them...They drive me nuts! lol

Zoey's mom, Heather said...

I was, and I still am, a big scaredy cat. No kidding. But that is a whole other story.

Having the slew of children that I do, I can say for sure, totally normal. Some needed night lights, others didn't. all grew out of it. Sammi will too. Promise.

Sammi is just emotionally developing, just as other children do. Finding her way and testing the waters and trying to navigate all these complex new emotions flying at her. I think it actually is a GOOD thing. I really do.

Cindy said...

I suspect she heard the term from somewhere, but her fear is probably justified. I don't know too many people who aren't afraid of the dark!

Beth didn't use a night light as long as she shared a room. The moment she got her own room, she wanted a light on. She now has just a small string of white (Christmas) lights hanging in her room. She's 27 and those are much cooler. :)