About six months ago, my daughter started expressing her fear of the dark the minute she knew I was about to leave the room before she went to bed.
Initially, I started responding with things like “There’s nothing to be afraid of” or “you’re fine, honey… just close your eyes and go to bed” before giving her the fifth last kiss and leaving the room. Of course, these quick fire one-liners were coming from a place of assumption that it was just another one of her ploys to extend her already-extended bedtime routine. I was also guilty of wanting to just handle it quickly so that I could get to my coveted quiet time at the end of a long day.
But, one night I took a step back and considered… what IF she really was afraid of the dark and this wasn’t a ploy? And I imagined her laying in that room by herself full of anxiety. And it broke my heart.
So … instead of dismissing her, I started acknowledging and validating her instead (a great lesson I learned from my friend and life coach Kerry of Simply Kerry). So I said “it’s ok to be scared, I understand” and would go on and explain how I actually used to be scared of the dark too when I was a little girl. And how my Mom helped me feel better when she told me how Jesus’ angels are flying all through my room to help watch out for me when I sleep – and that between Jesus, his angels, and Mommy and Daddy in the room next to me… that I was safe. And I explained that those same angels were flying around in her room too.
And the way she looked at me when she said, “You were scared too, Mommy?” … I could see a calmness come over her that she wasn’t alone in her fear. And that was kind of awesome.
Well. Cue a recent night.