Thursday, October 25, 2012

Afraid of the Dark.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of the dark.  But my son, his fear of the dark, this is ridiculous.

Let me back up...

Nathan didn't sleep in his own crib until he was 16 months old, and even then it was only for half the night.  Eventually he stayed in his room until 2 or 3am.  When we moved to our current home in June 2010, he started staying in his own room all night, which means until somewhere between 5 and 6am.

Bedtime used to be a nightmare.  It took me years, years, to get him to fall asleep within in a few minutes and stay asleep for most of the night.  I do this by standing with him.  Sometimes I hold his hand.

I am fully aware that this sets the stage for sleep issues and I'm not doing him any favors.  I understand that I'm not solving the problem long term.  But did you read his sleep history?  I'm tired.  It's been a long almost 6 years of messed up sleep and the pregnancy was no prize either so really I haven't had consistent good sleep since May of 2006.  You'll forgive me for aiding and abetting.

Anyway, since Kindergarten started, Nathan's fear of the dark, which started out normal, has gotten out of control.  He is now afraid to be in a well-lit room that is next to a dark room.

Exhibit A:

I took this picture, no flash, sitting on my couch.  It was brighter when he was up because the TV was on.  But he made me turn the dining room light on because it was too dark.  

Exhibit B:

Don't let his happy face fool you.  He was afraid to come into this room while I was in another.  Again, no flash here, folks.

I understand not wanting to walk into a dark room.  But a fully lit one?  Come on.

Also, see that round, gray thing on his far wall?  That's a Moon In My Room.  That lights up like a full moon and it, along with the light on his fish tank, a battery operated fake candle, a nightlight that projects SpongeBob's face on the ceiling, a spinning disco light and the hall light (that light from the doorway) all stay on until he's asleep.  And he's complaining it's too dark.  I could read in there it's so bright for crying out loud.

When he falls asleep I turn off the hall light.  The last few nights it's been back on by 1am.  Again, I know I'm not doing anything to stop his behavior, but I really just want us all to go to sleep.

He told me he's afraid of the darkness outside the windows so I close the blinds.  Other than that, he can't name his fear or expand upon it.

I'm at my wit's end.  I can't leave him in a fully lit room to do something else or else he's freaking out.  When (not if) he wakes up in the night he's afraid and can't go back to sleep.

On the one hand, I feel badly that he's so scared.  I hate that.  On the other hand, come on.  He is afraid in rooms that practically have flood lights in them simply because it's night.

My parents' approach for me was to shut up, suck it up and grow up.  It's dark, get over it.  I don't want to take that approach with my son.

I am, however, losing patience rapidly.

Anyone care to weigh in on this one?  Normal developmental milestone?  Turn on all the lights?  Turn off all the lights until he's desensitized?  (I'm not serious about that last one.)

If you have an idea, I'm open to hear it.  Also, if you'd like to chip in on the electric bill from 10,000 nightlights, I accept checks and major credit cards.


  1. Ugh, poor Nathan, poor you! I wish I had an idea. My 8yo is still scared but I have always been able to get away with leaving the hall light on (until he falls asleep, and then I turn it off). I feel very lucky now. I hope you get some good advice from someone experienced!

    1. Thanks Stacie. It's hard because I don't want to baby him if he's just manipulating for attention, but I don't think that's really what it is. There have been so many changes lately for him, maybe he just needs more time to settle down.

      I swear I will never take sleep for granted again!

  2. Oh I don't know but I would be struggling. So badly!

    1. I'm way overtired and so is he. So we're both a little cranky. OK. A lot cranky. Hoping he outgrows it soon.

  3. I wish I had a good solution for you and admire you wanting to handle this differently than your parents. Neither of my daughters will go into a dark room by themselves, but my 9 yo sleeps fine with a nightlight. My 4 yo falls asleep in a fully lit room and sleeps through us turning it off once she's asleep. Overall, it works for us. I hope you get some relief soon!

    1. We tried giving him a flashlight by his bed and setting up a tap light next to his head, but he still called me many times in the night. Sometimes I wonder if he's not awake enough to do anything except call for me.

      It does comfort me some to see how many other kids, older than he is too, still struggle with this. It is starting to sound to me like having expected him to outgrow this by now was not reasonable.

      Thanks for your comment!