Ezra got scared at bedtime last night. I am still not sure why.
We have been going through some bedtime issues off and on over the past several months. I was leaving the hall light on for a while, but Ezra started getting up in the middle of the night and, finding I had turned the hall light off after he was asleep, would get up and turn it back on – at 3 a.m. That had to stop.
So we got a night light for his room.
Unfortunately, I found out night lights cast scary shadows and were unacceptable. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. There were bargainings and other lights added to supplement the night light. Eventually it was too much and I had to find another option.
So I spent $30 on a Dream Lite.
If you have a small kid who watches Sprout, you have heard the commercial whether you know it or not (“Pillow Pet Dream Lites are the amazing nightlight that turns your child’s room into a starry sky … “). I took Ezra to Toys R Us and let him pick it out. He responded so well that Ezra’s dad made sure he got one for Ezra at his house, too. It worked great.
For about 3 weeks.
Last night after he’d been in bed about 30 minutes he “saw something move and it was scary.” I have no clue what he saw or thought he saw. It really doesn’t matter. It was real and it was scary to him. So much so that he refused to go back into his room and cowered against my legs out in the hall trying to explain. When I made him cross the threshold, his entire body tensed and he started to come a bit unglued, with big tears spilling out of his eyes. The Dream Lite was on and Sawyer was sitting in his bed in the room as well, but neither had the talisman-like qualities they had last night.
I didn’t know what to do.
I tried reasoning. (See my hand making a shadow? It is nothing scary. There is nothing out there. Shadows will still be in Mommy’s room, too. There is nothing to be scared of. Whatever it was that scared you is gone now.) No way.
I tried authority. (Ezra, that is enough. Sawyer is in here with you. Your Dream Lite is on. There is nothing else I can do. Enough. Lay. Down. Now.) Not a chance in hell.
His panic started to escalate and I was in danger of him having a complete meltdown.
And then I said something without even thinking about it.
“Jay is here. I am here. You are safe.”
He immediately quit whining. The tears stopped instantly. The tension drained from his little body.
His relief was palpable.
Encouraged by his obviously positive response, I continued along those lines, laying it on thick, “Nothing is going to happen to you. Jay is bigger and stronger than any scary thing you see. It is his job to take care of us and my job to help him.” (I may have also volunteerd Jay for monster recon duty in the backyard, should it be necessary – I was just going with it at this point.)
Ezra smiled and hugged me. “It is Jay’s job? He’s stronger than monsters??” he asked, impressed.
“Yes. That’s what parents do. They keep little kids and babies safe. He keeps me safe, too.”
Right in front of my eyes Ezra transformed from a tearful, scared child into a relieved and reassured little boy, confident in his safety and complete in his trust.
Apparently, my belief in Jay’s bravery was enough to make him brave as well and he began to put in his two cents.
“And it is my job to help him. If the bad guys and monsters come, Jay will fight them like this,” he said, showing me a karate chop and punch (complete with sound effects), “and I will go get the net and I will catch them like this,” he demonstrated with a big swoop of his arms. “I am a good helper.”
Just that quickly the crisis was over and without one bit of argument he let me tuck him back in. A few hugs and kisses, some reassurance that he is “my guy,” and Ezra contentedly rolled over and went right to sleep.
I went back into the living room and laughingly informed Jay of his now near superhero status.
But later, as I snuggled up against Jay in our bed, I realized that – even though I don’t have the simplistic pureness of childhood belief anymore, and although I can be jaded by the monotony of day to day life – what I told Ezra was a simple but powerful truth.
And with that belief, I drifted off to sleep feeling protected, safe and content as well.