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Childhood fears

March 19, 2010

Yesterday we went to the pediatrician to talk about Queenie’s habit of not sleeping through the night and her new trick of waking up at 3 am and being awake for two hours at a time. Wide awake. And nothing helps her get back to sleep.

It wasn’t our actual pediatrician, but as we have only seen our own pediatrician once, I guess it doesn’t really matter. The only twirk was that this one only speaks French whereas ours speak Spanish, so I was a bit left out of the conversation. I could follow it more or less, but my comments or questions had to be directed through Principe.

It ended up not mattering as I wasn’t really in the mood to talk with her once she did exactly what I thought she was going to do, and yet hoped she wouldn’t, give us THE LOOK. She almost rolled her eyes. I think she would have had she not caught herself in time. This was a fleeting moment, a flash across her face , before she straightened up and became professional, launching into a speech that had all the makings of her having done this before about what we need to do. When Principe explained that sometimes we give her milk in order to get her back to sleep she turned directly to me and said, “PAS DU LAIT.”

I didn’t have the capacity to even try and explain to her that it wasn’t every night that we did that and we usually only did it on the nights that she woke up with her stomach growling because she hadn’t eaten the day before. I swallowed my parental pride back and kept silent. I was sure she would just give me the look of, “Save it, hon, I’ve heard it all before.”

Principe nodded his head in agreement.

But the problem, in my eyes at the moment, was that she stayed on the milk subject as the principal reason for Queenie waking up. Which I just don’t see as the principle reason.

She didn’t seem to think it was strange that Queenie could be awake for two hours during the wee hours of the morning. Lots of kids do that, apparently.

She told us to switch roles and have Principe pick her up and put her back into bed. To be firm. Tell her she has to go back to sleep. No kisses. No hugs. No staying in her room. AND NO MILK!

We should tell her before she goes to bed not to wake up. (We do.) We should continue to stay strong and firm and consistent.

And it might take until the end of the year for it to take.

And we should close her door.

I cringed.

And almost physically shook my head, but just as the pediatrician had half and hour before (yes, she bludgeoned our parenting skills for a good half and hour) I recuperated my “interested” stare quickly enough.

Yes, I felt defeated. disappointed. Defensive. Not at all optimistic. I had to fight every cell in my body as we walked out not to throw the whole speech into the trash and declare that I wasn’t having any of it. After all, who was she to question my parenting skills? (Hmmmm).

But as we walked to the car to go to the anesthesiologist, I told myself to grow up. To learn to take criticism. I stop being defensive. We were the ones that made the appointment. What did I want, anyway, drugs to give to my child in order to sleep? Wasn’t it better to think that this is all due to poor parenting management rather than to an actual sleep disorder?

I was willing to switch roles. I was willing to be firm. I was willing to cut out the bottle. And to close the door…..almost.

But I don’t want to close the door all the way. I don’t want to put up a wall between Queenie and us.

And now you are rolling your eyes, no? Don’t worry, even my best friend did it.  “Just close the door. It won’t hurt her. She’ll get over it. She’s safe in her room, she’ll be fine. Just close the door!”

But I don’t want to. Why? It makes me nervous. I don’t like her not having access to us. I may seem overprotective, and I have certainly wondered if I am at times, but I want to have an open door policy with my children. If something happens during the night to make them feel unsafe, insecure or scared I want them to know that they can come and see us and tell us and become comforted by us. No, I don’t want a habit of them sleeping in our bed, but I do want them to feel safe.

Feeling safe is important to me. It stems from my childhood and never feeling safe ever. I remember many nights standing outside the door to my mother and stepfather’s door and not having the courage to knock. Not even if it was because my sister had wet the bed. I thought I would get into trouble. What I understand now, too, is that safety was not behind that door either since the man behind it was the one making me unsafe. But I don’t think I understood that as a 6 year old. I remember envying my little sister and how she was allowed to walk into their room at any moment, to snuggle up and to even sleep with them. To her their room was a haven, to me it was no man’s land that was unfamiliar and unwelcoming. The fact that it was partly my mother’s room didn’t help me in the slightest.

That is because my mother wasn’t there for me. She wasn’t able to protect me and I knew it. There was no refuge to be had in her arms because she didn’t know she needed to be a refuge. So now I am doing the obvious thing in being too much of a refuge. But how can I help it? I know that Queenie has no reason to need me to be a refuge. There is nothing for her to escape from. (And believe me, I am determined for that to be true all her life. Ditto for Little N). I realize now that I am projecting my childhood fears and insecurities onto my daughters, but is there something that I can do to stop it? Don’t we all do it? It is just that some of us have fears with roots that are hard to yank up, not just fears of imaginary monsters under the bed.

But the door was mostly closed last night. When it creaked open at 1:30 AM it was Principe who got up and directed her back to bed. Her crying for mama brought me to tears, but thankfully it only last about two minutes and she was back to sleep. And I sighed with relief. Principe asked me if I was okay but I don’t know if it was directed at the pregnancy or if he had intuition at 1:30 in the morning. Probably the pregnancy.

The door is again mostly shut tonight. And I am praying that it goes as well or better tonight. Because I can be firm, but my little girls calling out for mama will get me everytime, because I can still hear my own voice in my own head calling out and just not allowing it through my vocal chords.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 5:39 pm

    I almost cried reading this post. I so strongly identify with the shadows of my own childhood fears, and the overpowering urge to overprotect my own kids. I’m lucky to have a husband who can gently remind me: That was then, that was me, this is now and this is our child whom we love and protect and who will learn the world is a safe place, at least in our home. It’s a bit of a paradox: our children learn to feel safest when they learn to overcome their own fears and realize “I CAN do that. I CAN be brave.” But to learn this sense of safety, which comes from within, they have to practice. For a toddler this can mean learning to sleep through the night in their own bed…we used to leave the door open on the condition that they stay in bed (nightmares excepted). It was hard at first (closing the door for five minutes or so each time…) but worth it in the end: Kids who feel safe in their own bed, parents who are not deranged from sleep deprivation. …Best wishes to you and your family.

    • wideopenworld permalink*
      March 20, 2010 10:12 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement. In the back of my head I know that this is better for her and that she does feel safe, just the opposite of me as a kid. It is I who has to realize that, as your husband says, that was then and me and this is now and HER. Thankfully she slept through the night last night, so it looks like slowly we are getting things to work!

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