I’ve always been a BIG sleeper. In fact, I’ve joked about myself being an Olympic napper and being able to win gold. When Red was born, however, that was the worst sleep of my entire life. I don’t think I had a dream or real REM sleep for over 4 months, and that takes a TOLL on your body. I’ve learned that Red can be a big sleeper too, but only when he wants it. He hates waking up in the morning and has a really tough time going down for naps, even though he might be exhausted.
Nowadays, Red has moved from his crib to a toddler bed and then into a big boy bed (full sized mattress with headboard). This means learning to sleep in a slightly different environment, and my little creature of habit isn’t always comfortable with that. Or lately, even the dark. Early last fall, Red started waking in the middle of the night and couldn’t lull himself back to sleep, even with the help of his sound machine or blankies. Nothing was helping. Shortly thereafter, some “scary” stuff started to happen. We started dealing with nightmares.
“Wolves” started coming for him. I suspect it started in his dreams, where they were nipping his legs and scratching him. To this day, I’m not even sure where that imagery came from, (my biggest suspect is the wolf scene in Frozen, which really isn’t scary and is less than 30 seconds long) but it sure has a hold on him. When he started crying large tears and being irrationally afraid to go back to bed is when we started to take some action. It wasn’t enough to walk him back to his room, turn the light on and calmly explain/explore the absence of said wolves. It was way too real for him.
Dealing with nightmares was something I hadn’t yet had to do as a parent. My mom said she had a similar irrational fear as a child for witches, and her heart ached for Red. I’m a big softy, and was more willing to let him sleep in our bed for the rest of the night. A slippery slope, folks. So what else to do? My mom helped him craft a STOP sign, complete with police car and Coast Guard vehicle stickers, and pictures of rocks and bricks. Because wolves obviously can’t get past rocks, Police cars protect you and they have to stop when they see this sign. It would keep them out of his room. This system worked REALLY well for a long time. Until the fear of wolves kept him from falling asleep at all.
True, the sign helped, but even more so was a 12″ police car with sirens and lights that guarded his door. On her last visit to GA, she and Dad continued to spoil him rotten and let him pick out a Coast Guard helicopter (eerily similar to the sticker) to help the police car guard his door. This was the best system we had. On our trip to Disney World, Tinkerbelle’s Neverbeast joined the protective ranks. Wolves were serious business.
With the move to the new house, Red started fearing wolves on our new staircase (when the lights weren’t on) and thinking he heard them in the basement. We had to tell Red that the wolves couldn’t get into a car OR drive, so they had to stay at the old house. There were no wolves at the new house. Obvs. So far, this has worked really well. I’m not saying you have to move to a new house when dealing with nightmares, but you need to find a solution that works for your child, and that may very well be an unusual one.
Now true, the wolves have been put to rest (for the large part) but Red did wake up two nights ago complaining of a tiger in his room. Last night, during story time, there was a friendly tiger in our book, and Red was timid about that page. Hopefully there will be no resident tigers in the new house… but we’ll see. Doo has been on his bed the last two nights helping him fall asleep, and for that, I am super grateful. 🙂
Have your kids ever had irrational nighttime fears? What are they afraid of?