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Night Terrors
posted November 24, 2003 at 09:09

The other night Madison and I were watching an old episode of Saturday Night Live from last season. During the fake news Chris Kattan came out as Gollam (sp?) from Lord of the Rings. It was quite creepy, with a few extreme close ups and such, and when it ended Madi climbed up on my lap and started crying. Apparently she was totally horrified by the sight of this guy, but was basically frozen in fear until he was gone. I had no idea. So I explained to her that when she sees something that's not "nice", she has to tell me that she doesn't like it. I explained that's called "scared", and when she feels like that she should say "Dad, I'm scared". Not to get too Mr. Rogers on you, I just wanted to give you all the details.

Not sure if I've mentioned this before but Madison usually sleeps in the "big bed" with me and Deni. I know there are many people who think this is completely nuts, so let me go into a little detail on this subject. I was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before we found out Deni was pregnant. Through out her pregnancy and even to this very day, there's not a day that passes that I don't think about dying. It's one of the unfortunate emotional side effects of having a brush with cancer, I suppose. But it's a very haunting thought. Anyway, when Madison was born, I made it a point to make sure that I would spend every possible second with her. If I only had a limited amount of time with her, I wanted to make the most of it. Plus, there's a very calming feeling that comes with watching a baby sleep. I should add here that this wasn't limited to me thoughts of Madi, cause Deni always gets mad at me for not mentioning her on the site. This was and still is a recurring theme for me every day, the idea of not being with Deni and Madi (and the as yet untitled baby). But in this case, the notion of having Madison growing up not remembering me, well, that scared (and scares) the hell out of me.

Okay, melodrama aside, that's all fine and good and sweet and touching, but now that she's getting bigger I keep waking up with her feet in my neck or her kicking me in the chest. There's also my favorite waking up in a puddle of milk. So, despite my efforts to spend all of my time with Madi, as she gets older, it's getting harder to let her sleep in big bed.

Something about her bedroom freaks her out. I would imagine it's all my fault for not making her sleep in there in first place. How would you feel if you spent all your time with mom and dad and then one day were stuck in a crib in a different room with some creepy lullaby music playing? And it's not to say she's never slept in there, she has. She used to take all her naps there. In fact, she would sleep in her crib for a good stretch of the night until she woke up for a bottle. Then she'd make the jump to our bed. But she bursts into tears when she hears Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or any lullaby for that matter. I showed her a picture the other day of her in her crib when she a baby and she got all upset. I was convinced it was the crib. They force the kids to nap at day care, basically dropping them on cots or in cribs, so I figured that made her hate her crib AND lullabies, so I'd get her a bed.

I ran out one morning and bought a cute little white "big girl" bed, took the crib apart and set it up. She was excited at first, but when she realized that it was her new sleeping quarters and not a toy for her baby dolls, she suddenly lost interest. I convinced her to sleep there a few times for naps, but the mere suggestion of trying to get her to use it for a full night's rest was out of the question.

So this brings us to last night. Around 11:30 or so I take Madison up to bed. Yes, you read that correctly, 11:30. This is another habit that has to change, and starting this evening, will. But I'll save that for another discussion. By this point Deni has already been asleep for an hour or so, but I can usually drop Madi into the bed and leave her there without incident. This proved to be the exception. After about 10 minutes downstairs, I hear Deni and Madi arguing about something (which is mostly Deni saying things to Madi, and Madi yelling "No!", hello terrible twos). I go up to see what the commotion is all about. Basically Madison refuses to lay down and Deni is mad at Madi for not sleeping and me for plopping her in the bed. So I take Madi back downstairs with me while I finish up the stuff I was working on, on the condition that she has to lay down on the couch and drink her bottle.

Once downstairs she wants to "eat", she wants "down", she wants a "freeze pop", she wants "candy", she wants "Nemo". This is obviously not working, so I abort my work plans and decide it's bed time. We head back upstairs. I tell Madi to be quiet because Deni's sleeping. She tells me "shhh" several times. However, once we get into the bedroom, it's party time! He's the worst part, she is hysterically funny when she's trying to avert bedtime. She talks more than I've ever heard her talk, in full coherent sentences. She'll look me right in the eye and say something like "Daddy, you have a boo boo on your neck." or "Mommy sounds like a bear". It's adorable, but, trying to play the role of the hard-ass, I can't let on. So she starts jumping around and being silly and Deni wakes up and tells her to go to sleep, to which she responds "shhhhhhh", putting her pointer finger in front of her lips, as if she we a librarian.

I've given her ample chance to stay in the big bed, but it's time for her to try her own room. As we make our way down the hall, the screams are something from a horror movie. Knives in the eyes or giant creatures from another planet, imagine it. I can't begin to think what the neighbors must think we're doing to this poor baby.

I sit her on her bed and she just claws at me, doing that hysterical I-can't-catch-my-breath-I'm-crying-so-hard thing that kids do and just keeps giving me this look like Why are you doing this to me? I finally get her to settle down and we talk about the pros and cons of sleeping in her room. We make a deal that she will sleep in her bed if I sleep in her room with her. So we go to get a pillow and a blanket for me from the other bedroom, but when we go to leave to go back to her room she freaks out because she wants back in the big bed. Ugggg. Again, more horror movie screams, more hysterical crying.

I take her back into her room and get her on her bed and she looks up at me through these tears as big as grapefruits and says as plain as day, "Daddy, I'm scared". And it was at that very moment my heart broke completely in two. So I ask her "Why are you so scared?". She responds "Toys scary. The monkey is scary". Sure enough, there is a very menacing monkey about 2 feet away looking very hungry. So we get rid of him. Then she says "It's dark". "It's noisy". She right on both counts. Her bedroom is in the back of the building, so it parallels the turnpike. The trucks at night are very noisy. I can't dispute that one. Deni brings a night light in, so it's a little better, but she's still scared, as she continues to tell me. Anyway, after another half hour or so I get her calmed down and she finally falls asleep on top of me. I get her over to her bed, but I do keep my promise and sleep on the floor. I can't imagine the trust issues that would ensue if she'd wake up IN her bed and I wasn't there, like I said. Believe me, she would remember.

She woke up just fine and wasn’t too freaked out this morning. Although one of the first things she said was "monkey scared". So tonight we're going to inventory all of the stuffed animals and implement a new scary ratings system, exiling the more terrifying ones to the depths of the toy box, or quite possibly storage. She seems pleased with herself that she made it through the night in the big girl bed though, judging from the smug look on her face when I mentioned how cool she was for pulling it off. Not sure if my back can take another night of that damn floor, but it's a small price to pay to avoid seeing that scared baby face again, and it was part of the deal.

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