Please tolerate an OBNOXIOUS amount of backstory of myself before I get to my point which is a parental challenge with my daughter. HANG IN THERE! I NEED YOUR HELP AT THE END OF ALL OF THIS BLATHERING!
I spent a lot of my childhood TERRIFIED of nighttime. I’m not sure the exact schedule of events of triggers and behavior, but I’ll tell you how I think it all unfolded. (Reason #3,977,344 why losing a parent sucks, who do you ask when you’re not sure if you’re remembering things correctly?)
The daycares my Dad sent us to were never open on our random inservice or holidays because our Catholic school was not using the same calendar the rest of the city used. (Too bad he didn’t have a Single Dad blog, that would have been a topic to rile up the masses.) So those random days created problems in the childcare department. When my brother was still in preschool/Kindergarten at the school inside the hospital my Dad worked, I think he just worked it out with them that I could come hang out there on those days too. I remember I got to help in the baby room sometimes which was AWESOME. But then when my brother started school, I guess maybe he tried still doing something similar, but we weren’t “bound” to the “daycare” area. I’m guessing because I was 9 (Fourth Grade) and they thought they’d give us a little bit more free range. We got to hang out in the “lobby” outside the daycare which was the old lobby of the hospital before it expanded. There were no patient rooms or anything in that Wing, so there was never anyone there. We’d watch TV, they even had pool tables and vending machines and there was a gym we could sometimes play in.
So – one day this psycho thought it would be HILARIOUS to just traumatize me forever and walk by us naked. Yep. FULL NAKED. He walked by first clothed, I’m guessing making sure we were unsupervised. And then – Full Monty. We ran and told the daycare teachers after he left and we had to talk to the police and it scared the SHIT out of me because – WHAT KIND OF FREAK DOES THAT?
Well. I convinced myself that he was going to come murder me for talking to the police and I spent the next X amount of time (I’d say a year? Or more?) sleeping on the floor of my Dad’s bedroom. I knew I was too old to sleep with him, but I wanted to be close in case the scary flasher came looking for me. I remember waking up some of those nights and wanting to sit up and make sure my Dad was still alive and I just knew he’d be dead. I knew he’d be murdered in his bed as punishment for me talking to the police. I would sit up and peek over the bed to see and be almost brought to tears I’d be so relieved he was alive.
And I remember that fear VIVIDLY. Like, right now I’m kinda scaring myself just writing about it. Those fears were STRONG.
Then – in Fifth Grade – so, a year or more later, our house got broken into. And then I started being more aware of just the crime in general around us. We did not live in any sort of quaint residential area. We had a house in a residential district thrown on a street with commercial zoning and low-income housing projects as well. I started paying attention to the newspaper and the TV and hearing about bad things happening near our house and that on tope of the burglary and I basically was terrified every second of every day. The commercial zoning didn’t help because I could hear weird sounds from 18-wheelers driving by and the interstate was nearby and the entire situation surrounding my home just basically scared the shit out of me.
Now, as I got older I hid it better, but I was still deep down terrified. There was a prank in middle school at a sleepover camp that I feel like might have been a lot more innocent if I hadn’t been there to FREAK MY SHIT OUT. I think maybe it would have been laughed at by most girls but I was terrified and thought it was all real and I think I made everyone else a million times more terrified with my own terror. And I was in 8th grade then. I was old enough NOT to be irrational, but that night I flipped out over a basic prank and probably ruined the night for everyone.
There was also a time I called the police to my house because I heard the phone book delivery guy and I thought it was a murderer.
I’m telling you – my fears were TOXIC.
I’m convinced this is why I never really got into scary movies growing up. Or haunted houses or anything. I experienced real fear over stupid and mundane crap, why in the HELL would I want to magnify that to any degree?
Now – as an adult I have my anxieties, but as soon as I became a Mom those “fears” of murderers and boogeyman went away. It really was like overnight. I remember being pregnant with E (I was 18, remember) and still being scared when I heard scary noises at night – but I don’t remember having that kind of imaginative fear at all since then. Being a Mom came with it’s own set of fears, for sure, but those imaginary “PLEASE LETS SLEEP WITH THE LIGHT ON!” fears were gone almost instantaneously.
Why did I just give you a history of my own childhood fears?
Because Nikki is there now. She’s always been a little nervous about nighttime. I sleep with her most nights as I’ve mentioned that Donnie and I are NOT sleep-compatible. (We are compatible in 99% of the other ways, so this seems inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.) But since I went out of town last week and she had to sleep without me? It seems to have gotten a million times worse. It’s like she realized that night how much she needs me there to help her sleep and she was basically awake texting E at 3am because she was terrified.
So. For the last week we’ve spent every night talking about our fears and our imagination and how to trust us etc.
She’s fine once she falls asleep, I can get up and sleep elsewhere and most of the time she does okay. She seems to be waking up earlier than she used to, but it’s not ridiculously early.
But she’s TERRIFIED. Like, if I even talk about leaving before she falls asleep she FREAKS OUT. She’ll cry and beg me to stay. Last night she didn’t want to be able to hear the superhero cartoon Donnie and Wes were watching because it sounded scary. It’s strange, it’s like her fears have doubled in the last week.
Now, I remember my own fears too vividly to blow it off and force her to suck it up. My Dad was very tolerant of my irrational fears and did everything he could to make me feel safe. But, I also want to make sure I’m not making it worse or making the phase stretch out longer.
SO! Did you have any childhood fears? Did your children? How long did it last and how did you handle it? I feel like my adult anxieties could be a million times worse if Dad hadn’t helped make me feel safe as a kid as much as he did. So those faded on their own, but I’m not sure. I’d love to hear from other adults who remember their own childhood fears and maybe have opinions on how their parents handled their fears.