My oldest has always been a little, shall we say, anxious about the night. He's the reason there's a nightlight in our hall. He's the one who has ended up in our room approximately 11,000,002 times in his life while his little brother has appeared on a total of four occasions. We worked through this in the preschool years by rewarding him for staying in his bed all night.
ALL NIGHT? HOORAY! YOU GET A DIME! NINE MORE OF THOSE BABIES AND YOU CAN PICK SOMETHING OUT AT THE DOLLAR STORE! Mama will even spring for the tax!
At one point he went a full two months and earned himself a betta fish. That was two and a half years ago and that betta is still going strong. You'd think I'd have learned my lesson back in college when my own, aptly named, betta, Moby Dick, lived FOREVER.
Garrett was doing just great with sleeping in his own bedroom all night long but then extended family trauma happened and it sent my kid into an anxiety filled downward spiral. You make a decision as a parent, after careful prayer, thought and discussion, what, exactly, to tell your kids. For Matthew, the answer was NOTHING. Too little.Too oblivious. For Garrett, the answer was HE KNOWS SOMETHING IS UP AND SOME INFORMATION WILL DO. Except. Just. No.
Because now my otherwise calm, cool and collected child screams, "Bye! Mom! BYE! I LOVE YOU!" no less than five times between his spot on the blacktop and the door to the school. Which is roughly 25 feet. He looks longingly at me. He runs back, sometimes, to throw his arms around me. His eyes well up. There was, at one point, a scene involving me attempting to pry his bony little fingers from the inside of the van, an angry dash into oncoming traffic and, eventually, him sprinting down the hall at school shrieking my name. (This is all getting better, mind you, and I've consulted a pediatrician and a child psychologist who both think that he's trending in the right direction and he'll escape all of this relatively unscathed. NOTHING happened to him so he just needs to process what everything means for all the people he cares about.)
In light of all this, however, he's taken a leap backward in his ability to stay in his own room all night. Most nights he's fine. But once or twice a week, he wakes up about the time I'm getting into bed and claims that he hasn't slept at all, he's so tired, and he must sleep in our room. Sometimes he crawls into bed with me and Troy carries him back to his own a half hour later.
Last night, he woke up. "I can't sleep!" he lamented despite the fact that he'd been asleep for hours. I scratched his back and told him he needed to stay in his own bed. That did it. He hysterically wailed and sobbed, moaned and howled until his brother woke up. I ushered the wailer into my room and, thankfully, I was able to quickly get Matthew back to sleep. Troy came in and we tried to get him to articulate his feelings. We've been doing a lot of that lately because communication and expressing how you feel about something is the only way that I know--aside from prayer and reading the word, of course--to properly heal.
"I'm just so tired!" he sobbed.
"Okay. How come you can sleep better in our room?" I asked him. I will not put words into his mouth or thoughts into his head but I was looking for because I'm afraid and I want you to reassure me that everything is going to be okay and I feel safer when I'm with you. Not that any seven-year-old, even one being raised in our incredibly-open-let's-talk-about-everything family, would be able to articulate his feelings that well.
"Because it's not as hot as my room!"
"Alright," I told him, still wishing he'd speak his true feelings, "you can stay in here and daddy and I will go sleep in the basement." He would NEVER, in his right mind, come find us in the blackened basement because he's terrified of the dark.
"Fine," he said. So Troy and I walked down the stairs and sat in our living room, staring up the stairs. Five minutes passed and that kid sprinted from our room back into his own, meow-crying like a lost kitten. We immediately went up.
Troy asked him, "Why did you get out of our bed? That's where you wanted to be."
"Because I'm scared of two things. The attic door..." he supplied. (There is an entry into the crawl space located in the boys room. The child is somehow convinced that something is going to come out of that space and get him in the night.) "And BATHROOMS!"
He couldn't possibly stay in our big bed all by himself. Not with that bathroom lurking so close by. It had nothing to do with the fact that we were no longer there to reassure him and keep him safe. No. Not at all. Troy stayed with him for a few minutes and then he was able to make it through the rest of the night in his own bed.
He used to be afraid of chickens. Now I guess we can add bathrooms to the list.