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Lest I feel too smug about my maternal prowess, in the past week Simon has come to fear sleeping alone in a dark room. He had a few night awakenings last week, and then this Monday night he could not get to sleep until 10:30 and only then got to sleep when we gave up, put him our bed with me, and exiled Matt to the guest bedroom, AKA the insomnia room.

As self reported, the four things Simon is most scared of at bed-time as are below, immediately followed by my internal responses:

What if mummies are real?

Well now this is going to be easy! “Simon, honey, it’s just Scooby Doo! It’s pretend. Mummies don’t really run around and chase people. You just keep telling yourself that you know it’s not real.”

What if someone in the family gets cancer and dies?

Er…. Cancer treatments have gotten much better in recent years? People don’t always die? Zadie had cancer and he’s ok? Mom and Dad probably won’t get sick or die anytime soon? Not seeing a great way out for that one.

I’m scared about  when the sun becomes a red giant and devours the earth.

I got this one! “No worries honey, that won’t happen for 5 billion years or so. And by then, we’ll all be dead anyway.” Then again, maybe that’s not so comforting when you are five…

What if I can’t get my brain to stop thinking scary thoughts?

“It’s your brain; you tell it what to think.” Unless you have uncontrollable thoughts that is. Hm. Maybe ask it really nicely to stop thinking scary thoughts? Matt and I have decided that this is, in fact, the scariest of the four scary thoughts. How old before you can do hypnotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy?

So, as you can see, my maternal prowess resulted in a total of 1 good answers out of 4 questions. Can’t wait to see what my hit rate will be when he’s 10 or so.

On the plus side, the kind folks at parenting science gave me lots of food for thought and strategies. Tuesday night, I promised a new fish within the week to keep him company in his room, read only funny and happy stories, offered to stay with him longer than usual, turned on his night-light for the first time ever, left his door open, demonstrated that nothing lurked anywhere in the room, reminded him that Daddy and I are both close by and won’t let anything happen to him, reminded him that he can tell his own brain that mummies aren’t real, did the math on the number of nights he’s fallen asleep without being scared (2098) vs. how many he has been too scared to sleep (1), and reassured him that I knew he could do this if he set his mind to it.

He was sound asleep by 9:10 and thankfully stayed that way. I don’t expect the issue to go away, but at least I can now appeal to previous success conquering fear.

Friday morning update: Monday was our very bad night. Tuesday I spent a good 45 minutes talking him down, but he did fall asleep by 9:10. Wednesday was nearly normal. Thursday night he had a few bad spells, often during the day, always about the sun devouring the earth. So I did a little reading. Some scientists think that as the sun becomes a red giant it will lose so much mass that Earth’s orbit will change and the blue marble will be flung out closer to the outer planets. Of course, the Earth will be uninhabitable in 1 billion years when the oceans dry up, and pushing Earth out towards Jupiter would render our ice planet incompatible with life, but I left that bit out. Nope, I just told him the first part and let him draw his own (incorrect) conclusions. He fell asleep, and that’s all I cared about.



2 Responses to “Who’s Afraid of a Red Giant?”

  1. Amanda says:

    He’s old enough now to start dealing with Big Thoughts. I’d say he’s right on schedule.

  2. tlalbaugh says:

    We’re having exactly the same issue, but without the deep thoughts. Kira has always been a pretty good sleeper as long as the room is dark enough (we have blackout curtains AND extra liners; she even complains that her glow stars on the ceiling are too bright sometimes). But in the past few weeks (probably exacerbated by a two-week vacation where she slept with Momma every night) she has suddenly taken to waking up several times a night and then cannot go back to sleep. The reason? “I’m lonely.” She then wants someone to lie down on her floor until she goes to sleep–but when she wakes up again and you’re not there, the cycle starts all over. And it sometimes can take her an hour or two to go back to sleep. Let’s just say it’s horrendous for all concerned. She, of course, seems to be functioning pretty well with little sleep. I, on the other hand, am a basket case. Tonight we’re going back to sleep school 101: No staying until she falls asleep (“I’ll check on you in five minutes,” etc., etc.), and I will insist she try to fall asleep on her own before yelling for me in the middle of the night. If this doesn’t work, we may have to resort to bribery (trip to the kid’s museum or the fancy pool?), as unfortunately, the whole cry it out thing doesn’t work so well for five-year-olds perfectly capable of getting out of bed. Here’s hoping this is a minor phase, as I’m so tired I’m clumsy; I just dropped an enormous cup of mocha all over my carpeted floor. Sigh. : (

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