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The past week (although I’d swear it feels like it’s been a month), the Little Mister and sleep have not been the best of friends (to put it mildly). It started with teething, evolved into separation anxiety and turned into a sniffly cold. Now that he’s recovering from his cold, I suspect he’s found a new fear of the dark. Who says life is boring with an almost 2 year old? Actually, no-one ever. With good reason, it seems!
The Little Mister is usually known for his exuberance and ability to dive headfirst into anything – fear being a concept he’s hardly understood. He’s had nervous moments, times he’s hesitated and not trusted his own ability to climb off that big step or to eat the first spoonful of a warm meal (he’s a bit sensitive and will only eat his food when it’s lukewarm bordering on cold). But overall, he’s that kid who will make friends with anyone, run off almost anywhere to satisfy a curiosity, fend off our big, black dog with a bemused look on his face (I swear he almost rolls his eyes) and loves being up high. The occasional separation anxiety has been the worst it’s ever got. Even then, it’s never held us all back in life. He’s done well. We’ve been so unbelievably lucky.
But this is toddlerhood. A natural part of this growing process is to develop fears. Some of my dear friends have claimed their children are scared of the bathroom taps, the shower head and other curious, less obvious things. In our household, the Little Mister has developed a fear of the garage door. It has rattled in the strong winds we’ve been experiencing and he now tries to re-enter the house when I open the door, ready to get in the car for yet another mundane supermarket adventure (whether the door is rattling or not). While I would love to run back into the house on supermarket day (so over it!), his reason is a new one! He loves cars and he loves going on trips to the shops or anywhere, really. I used to have to physically restrain him from rushing out of the door too fast and falling over himself onto the concrete floor! Now I have to encourage, coax and offer my hand. Go first. Show him it’s safe. More often than not he will sit on the little step looking so small (and really actually quite cute and vulnerable). He’s never had a tantrum about it, screamed or cried, but his hesitation is enough to tell me something’s different.
A more obvious fear that he appears to be developing (not confirmed yet) is a fear of the dark. Turning off his light and saying goodnight is a little bit heartbreaking as he starts whimpering. I don’t know why, but I’ve hesitated in turning on his night light. Some weird, irrational fear that he might never be able to sleep in the dark ever again for the rest of his life? I don’t know. Now I feel cruel for putting him through that. Tonight the night light goes on, because I remember being scared of the dark when I was little. I recall feeling safe with my door open a little where the light of the bathroom would glow through. That was my night light. I remember one of my first birthday party sleep overs when I started primary school. Staying at a friend’s house in her spare room (surrounded by other little girls) and feeling like I was the only one disturbed by the fact that there were no curtains to ward off the darkness outside. I remember almost panicking when the scritchy branches of a small tree outside scraped against the window, the shadows terrifying me. I remember as a tween, when my mum would ask me to put something in the outside bin, in the early hours of the evening – just after dark. The bushland behind their house would scare me just enough that I would scurry really fast. WHO KNEW WHAT WAS HIDING IN THE DARK? Monsters? Murderers? I don’t even think I knew what I thought was out there. I just knew it was a bit scary and got my heart racing.
Today, I remind myself that I can sleep without a light on. The darker my room, the better. It means more quality sleep. Peace. I know I’m safe in my house (well as safe as I can be) that I own. The doors and windows locked. If the blinds aren’t closed completely when I go to check on the Little Mister or grab a glass of water from the kitchen late at night, I don’t freak out. Doesn’t mean I don’t have the odd moment when I think I see ‘something’ or worry about intruders, but the fear doesn’t cripple me. I just do what I can (as an empowered adult) to control what I can and I know to let the rest go.
It is this that makes me feel better about turning on that night light. I need to reassure my Little Mister. In fact, it’s probably the best thing I can do to make sure his little kid fears don’t last forever.
Don’t want to scar him for life!!!
You see, that’s what I do when I need to keep perspective as an awesomely unprepared parent (not the scarring him for life thing haha). I ask myself, do I still do/need/hate those things as an adult? More often than not, the idea seems ridiculous to present day me. This gives me hope. I don’t sleep swaddled. I try new foods (sometimes even going on to like something I previously had an aversion to). I am not that scared of the dark anymore.
OK, so I am deathly scared of big spiders (or any spiders with bulbous bodies and hairy legs or ones that can kill you). And obviously I’m a little bit scared of f*cking up this whole parenting caper. But you can’t win ’em all.
What are you (or your child) scared of? How do you deal with this fear? x