Afraid of the Dark


So, my daughter has a relatively new habit. And of course it was absolutely peaking the first month of my new job, where I – who am not a morning person – was required to be up HOURS earlier than my previous job required.

The “relatively new habit” is that this little bean wakes up in the middle of the night because she is afraid of the dark. And I think it’s safe to say that I’m more afraid that I’m going to be woken up at 2:30am than she is afraid of whatever is actually causing her to wake up. I don’t know exactly what it is that’s rousing her at ungodly hours, but I do know that everyone in my world with a child around the age of three is suffering through this as well. And, while I’m sorry to anyone else that may be going through this, it sure is nice knowing that I’m not alone.

5:00am visitor.
5:00am visitor.

So, the question is: What is going on? Why is this happening? She doesn’t watch scary stuff; we don’t read scary stories. Why on earth is she so afraid of the dark? One of my friends, who also happens to have a pre-K 3, had a theory: “Because the dark is f#@king scary!” OK, good point, Kat. I guess you just have to think like a preschooler.

And my daughter is getting very skilled in her ploys to keep me in her room. I suppose I’m an easy target, cause I’m loaded with working mom guilt and always down for an extra snuggle. Among the tricks, complaints, and requests that my daughter and her friends (shared with me by their mothers) have recently used are:

*Gently grabbing my face, pulling it to her own and sweetly saying, “Tell me about your day.” No three-year-old cares about what you do at work, FYI. This is a trick. An obviously well-crafted trick, because somewhere in their tiny brains they must know that no one asks you this question, especially in such a gentle and loving way. Also, wanting to talk about anything that tugs at the heart strings (e.g., deceased relatives and/or much-loved pets) is a crazy-effective way to suck you into the vortex.

*Having to use the bathroom. This is certainly not unique, but it’s a solid gold excuse. What can you do, but go through the motions? A girlfriend shared that she was sitting on the bathroom floor for “30-45 minutes each session” waiting for a child that wouldn’t poop if she left the room. This would result in “23 trips with poops the size of a dime”. Maybe you can relate?

*Requests for water or food. This is a tough one. I know that my daughter is sometimes just “hungry for candy”, but denying her water seems so cruel. Obviously, it’s not cruel though, because this is a trick. What is cruel, however, is being awoken at 2:46 in the morning by a whimpering child standing in your room wearing a Strawberry Shortcake nightgown that wants nothing more than to put a size 8 foot in your back and grind her teeth 4 inches from your face.

*Book, book, book, snuggle, hug, book, kiss, kiss, one last kiss, story, song, book, one more hug, kiss, kiss, book, story, book. One. More. Hug.

*Unreasonable fears / ridiculous nightmares. Shadows and robots are a couple that I’ve heard in my own home. Another girlfriend shared that her daughter woke up a couple of nights crying that there “were bees in her room. Lots of bees.”

So, if you’re going through this – or worse – please know that there are mothers that can empathize. I’m assuming that there is a **light at the end of this long, sleepless tunnel.

**FYI: This light is not a flashlight, nightlight, a light that projects images of princesses on the ceiling, string lights, or even a dim lamp.

5 comments on “Afraid of the Dark”

  1. I love the picture. – As I was getting ready for an early morning work out, I heard my daughter talking to herself. It was 4:30…so technically way too early to be awake. I was so glad she’s able to stay in her bed when moments like this happen. Hang in there!

  2. Great article. I totally get it. My three year old won’t sleep in her bedroom, so I gave up. Her crib mattress is on my floor next to my bed. She now sleeps without a peep. I am too tired and feel too guilty for working so many hours to fight this battle. I cannot have her sleeping in our bed, so the floor is a sort of negotiation for sanity. Fortunately, I have two teenage sons, and I know as children grow, they become more independent. This is a phase. She will eventually get sick of the crib mattress or grow to long for it. Whatever the case, I am not worried about my choice to make my life tolerable. Tara, trust yourself and your actions. We ladies don’t need to judge one another; simply share and care.

  3. So hard! It phases in and out over here. One food/water trick to avoid the stall tactic: We announce when the kitchen is closing for final drinks and snacks. Drink now or forever hold your thirst (or at least until morning). Hope you sleep soon! Do you and spouse take turns getting up? That also helps avoid reinforcing a pattern so it becomes less rewarding. Hang in there!

  4. This is hysterical because I am right there with you! Two nights ago it was crocodile shadows and men talking saying they were gonna paint her room an ugly color.

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