From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beastiesPerhaps instead of quoting trite little prayers about things that go bump I should be beginning this post with Proverbs 16:18, because I am afraid that I have been guilty in the past of pride in Jemimah's ability to sleep.
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!
The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926
Ever since she first slept through the night at 8 and a half weeks of age, she has been an absolute dream-child in this department; bed at 8pm, rise at 8am. Twelve hours each and every night. Lights off, door closed. I suppose I should have realised that it was too good to continue, but hey, she's almost eight, and it has! Or maybe now I need to say had. Past tense.
Admittedly we had one small hiccup. A year or so ago during a sleepover, an older cousin introduced a hitherto unthought of fear of the dark, by pointing out the creaks as evidence of monsters or other "long-leggedy beasties". We live in an old home. We have lots and lots of creaks.
We managed this quite easily at the time by simply leaving the passage lights on outside her room until it was time for us to go to bed at the usual time. We quite often had these lights burning anyhow, and so to turn them on deliberately at bedtime was no great hardship. The light that filtered through the doorway cracks, it seemed, was enough.
Until a fortnight ago. In the last two weeks Jemimah has developed a fully fledged insomnia problem. Each night one of two problems occurs:
Either it takes her "ages to fall asleep" and so at 11 pm when we are off to bed and turning off all the lights she is just going to sleep. With the advent of complete darkness BANG! she is suddenly wide awake again!!
Alternatively, she is exhausted at bedtime because of the palaver of the previous night and goes to sleep beautifully, only to awaken at about three in the morning. Again it is black, and again those goulies and ghosties are bumping away.
Either alternative is pretty bad. Both of them in succession has resulted in a household of cranky inhabitants. Even the dog goes slightly loopy when awoken at 3 am. She thinks she should be allowed up on my bed, and stands by scrabbling the bedclothes before deciding that she needs to go outside to relieve herself. Which of course she can't do alone.
And so now I am asking for help. Have any of you gone through this problem before me? Does anyone have anything that may help? Please share.
I suppose I should quickly run through what we have done, remembering that it is only a couple of weeks although it feels much longer.
We have encouraged her to talk about her fears. We have acknowledged the fear as real but the reason for the fear as excessive. We have talked about what causes the creaks and cracks and listened for them during the waking hours. We have discussed the fact that she is safe with her Mummy and Daddy in the same house, and more importantly that she is safe because God watches over her wherever she is. We have recited Psalm 121 and have encouraged her to pray when she feels alone and afraid.
We have not forced her to confront her fears. She is only 7, and to leave her lying awake afraid through much of the night seems unnecessarily heartless and we feel that it is unlikely to achieve a diminishing of her problem. We do not want a fully fledged long-term nyctophobia on our hands. (You all knew that was the proper term for a fear of the dark, didn't you?)
We have allowed her to switch on a light if she awakens during the night.
We have tried sitting with her (which didn't work because she lay awake talking to us), and have invited her into our bed with us. We have also tried sleeping in the spare bed in her room. These work, but we are constantly aware of the risk of rewarding 'poor behaviour', and so are disinclined to do this two nights in a row. Expressing fear is a sure way of getting our attention and she knows that. Tears work too. I hate lying in bed and hearing my daughter crying alone in the next room. I'm a sucker for tears because we see them rarely.
We are loving her. We are respecting her. We are reassuring her. We are helping her develop strategies to deal with the fear.
Does anyone else have any ideas?
When asked once if he were afraid of anything Thomas Edison replied "I am afraid of the dark." When he died, he had all the lights burning in his New Jersey home.
Maybe that's why he invented the light globe, and recently during the night I have been very glad that he did, but I think that little story is quite sad.
I really hope we can get Jemimah the help that Edison never did.
And soon. Preferable today.
I would love an unbroken night's sleep tonight, and so would she.