Friday, March 9, 2012

Afraid of the Dark?

I seriously need some advice!  Reed has been crying at night- usually bedtime, middle of the night, and/or early morning for the past week.  It started with a fever that never went anywhere illness-wise but landed him in our bed one night (which is NOT normal practice around here), followed by a night of interrupted sleep when the tornadoes swept through.  Reed has been a 12 hour sleeper since he was 3 months old, and almost always put himself back to sleep if he was awakened.

At first, I thought maybe the nighttime crying was a left over mini-habit from the couple of "off days" mentioned above.  But he was acting really weird at night... I am not even sure he is fully awake each time he cries out, but he sits in his bed yelling for me and kind of rocks and kicks.  He almost looks like he is in pain.  The only times I am sure he is aware are when he says "I want to go to mommy's bed" or cries "Yay with me, mommy."  I took him to the doctor on Friday to make sure he didn't have molars coming in or an ear infection or anything going on.  Everything looks perfectly clear and he has all of his teeth.  Last night makes 7 nights of screaming and crying.  (And at the risk of over complaining, this trails a 10-night stretch of sickness for a very pregnant momma who will have a newborn here in a month!)  I finally decided that it must be a stage/phase thing and that maybe Reed is starting to process the changes that are about to rock his world.  (Doesn't it seem like they just know?!)

Last night, though, when we were putting him to bed, Reed started his tearful protests and then cried out, "I don't want the dark to come in!"  Matt and I exchanged a quick what do we do look, and told Reed we would plug in a special light.  He immediately freaked out when we got the night light.  We prayed with him and told him he was safe and we would see him in the morning to play, but we heard from him last night at bedtime, at 3:00, and at 5:30.  And these aren't short stretches.  He will be up for over an hour in the middle of the night like it's no thang.  Last night against every sleep habits instinct, I crawled in Reed's bed and held him.  I don't what to do!  I want him to know he is safe and that we will respond to his needs and fears, but I realllly want him to know how to self-soothe and to (Lord knows!) regularly sleep through the night in his bed.  I also want to walk gingerly around his fears, to not use words or react in a way that makes them worse-- he isn't even 2 yet!  Right now, I usually give him a few minutes before I go in.  I lie there in bed praying over him to feel safe and at peace.  When I go in his room, I try not to pick him up but tell him to lie back down and I'll rub his back.  He almost never falls back asleep this way.  The second he knows you're leaving, it starts all over.

Last thing: Now that we think (know?) Reed is afraid at night, we've racked our brains and think it might be either the night in the basement (tornadoes) or an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse that scared him.  He keeps asking to watch "Princess Pete" (the show we think randomly frightened him).  Much to Reed's dismay, we've been avoiding his beloved MMC altogether.  It still seems weird to me that it followed the fever too.

Any ideas?  What do I do?  Not do?  How do you talk with (or not) a barely 2-year-old about being afraid at night?  Anyone have similar experience and/or a resource to point me toward?  Is this simply normal for some children... and our new reality after I was spoiled for 21 months??  (Mom, do not just tell me this is pay back!)


  1. I have no advice [not a mother -- but I have friends and relatives who have been -- sic]-- but is there some fear that he is internalizing, intuitively picking up on about the upcoming changes with the arrival of his sister?

    Keep praying. You are a smart girl -- very logical -- what you and Matt are doing sounds as good a process as any.

    Hugs. I hope tonight is when it changes.

  2. thanks HG!! And thanks for comments on FB too... I felt much better after hearing everyone's "normal" stories. Reed is doing better, and although we still have some bad nights, I am pretty comfortable with how we are trying to walk him through his fears.
    If anyone is checking in on this blog because of the topic, here are a couple of things that helped us:
    1- I think it helped when all of us (read: mommy) to calm down some and recognize that Reed just needed some reassurance.
    2- lots of people recommended a night light, but for whatever reason Reed was freaked out by them (various kinds) and didn't want one. According to many, though, a night light was a big help to their children.
    3- We've had lots of carefully navigated conversations the past couple of weeks when Reed brings up bedtime, fear, or even randomly role plays putting mommy to bed. One friend suggested helping Reed feel in control of bedtime since fear often stems from a feeling of lacking control- ie, which animals do you want to sleep in your bed with you, picking out a night light, which bedtime book to read, etc.