Scared of the Dark?
None of my children like the dark all that much.
I can’t say that I blame them – it took me most of my life to get comfortable with the dark, and even with the adult knowledge that nothing is different in the dark (except for it being harder to see things). I still get those feelings if I think too much. You know, the ones that make me take a flying leap into my bed once the lights are out. It’s not just me, right?
My oldest sleeps with a nightlight (that we call a nightlight, but is really just a lamp). Admittedly, it has a very low-wattage nightlight bulb, but her room is not dark in the least. Are we somehow damaging her by allowing her to sleep in a well-lit room, in order to ease her anxieties? I don’t know. I don’t know that anything anyone could say would change the way I feel. The thing is, I remember all too well what it was like to be the one dreading the darkness.
When I was a child, I spent a lot of time needing a nightlight, an open door, or someone to stay with me. Put me in a room alone, and my mind would begin racing.
I would imagine that my house was going to catch on fire, and it would be up to me to save my family. I had to practice, over and over in my mind, the steps I would have to take to be sure that everyone got out safely. Or else, my imagination would convince me that there was a Florida panther lurking in our yard (I can assure you that the likelihood of this was pretty close to negative one million, but try explaining that to my childhood brain). The panther was going to jump through my bedroom window and devour my family; but the only thing I could do to prevent it was to lay perfectly still, facing the window, guarding against the impending invasion.
I understand that these may not have been the fears shared by other kids my age. There were no monsters under the bed – although a snippet of a horror movie scene when I was in my early tween years led me to imagine a knife-wielding maniac under every bed I have slept in since (yes, I still have my moments). Instead, my demons were of a different sort, and only controlled – in my mind – by my mind. I had to rehearse my fire drill, watch the window, and leap perfectly into the center of the mattress. If I could do these things, we’d all be safe. If I failed? I would sob just thinking about it.
So I let my daughter sleep with her lamp blazing. If that is what it takes to send her off to sweet dreams, free from the demands of her own brain, I’m happy to oblige. As for me? I no longer have the nightlight, per se, but I still don’t like to be alone in the dark. I no longer fear the panther – I know my problem is my mind, and that’s impossible to escape.
What about you? Do your childhood fears influence how you handle the fears of your children?