By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
That’s what the clock read. Is it raining? I should go look out the window to see if it is raining because if it’s not I can turn off the alarm and sleep a little later.
But I can’t get up to go check…tooooooooooo sleeeeeeeppppppppyyyyyy…
“LUCAS!” I heard myself scream. All of a sudden I am out of my bed so quickly that I forgot to get my glasses, running towards the stairs. I don’t know what I heard, but somehow I knew he was in trouble and he responded with a sound. I can tell from his voice he is on the stairs. Is the monitor working?
He started crying loudly.
I picked him up, halfway to the top of the stairs, and held him close to me, whispering soothing words, trying to calm and quiet him down. After a short period of time he was whimpering into my shoulder.
“Let’s go upstairs and check on Dorit,” I whispered to him. I thought I heard her stirring up there and can only imagine how our outbursts have frightened her.
I carried him upstairs, while he wrapped his arms around my neck. When I opened the door, I checked that the green light on the monitor is on (which it is) and I wonder why he didn’t say anything before he started the dangerous trek downstairs in the dark.
I put him down and checked on Dorit, who clearly seemed like she had been jolted awake. But my little girl is extremely good at falling asleep – I could not possibly count how many times she has been woken up by Lucas in the middle of the night and though we’re both a bit out of practice, I am sure she will fall asleep without my help.
Lucas and I sat and talked a little. I asked what happened and he said he heard a noise. That is often the case and my only guess is that he had a dream that woke him up and he was unable to go back to sleep. Instead of crying out loud, he started the journey from his room, through their playroom, to the stairs and down the stairs. If I hadn’t heard him on the stairs he would’ve had to go through the dining room, then through a small hallway leading to our bedroom. We use to keep a childproof device on the doorknob so he couldn’t get out, but have since decided that is no longer safe. It’s just that it doesn’t feel safe without it when he starts that adventure on his own in the dark.
I reminded him he is going to camp tomorrow and he needed a good night’s rest and he smiled. I reminded him he’ll see his teachers and new friends and he smiled some more. He finally seemed ready for sleep and I asked him to get into bed and he did without struggle.
“Tell me about your Happy Thoughts.”
“All the people that love me,” he says.
“That’s a good one…You know I’m one of those people, right? You know I love you, Lucas, don’t you?”
Then I say my usual goodnight greeting. “SSsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooooooooooo much I love you, Lucas.” In the winter, he had gotten scared by the hissing of the radiator in the middle of the night so I thought maybe I could associate that hissing sound with something positive and it has stuck.
“So much I love you, too, Daddy.”
“Oh good,” I said smiling at him.
I kissed Dorit goodnight, made sure she was okay. I think she was still a bit shaken but seemed ready to fall asleep – if only we would stop talking.
I kissed Lucas one more time and opened the door.
“Yes, Lucas?” I said cautiously.
“Maybe tomorrow after scho—Maybe tomorrow after camp…”
Please don’t ask me to pick you up Lucas. I can’t. I have to go to work.
Please, please don’t ask.
“Maybe we could call you?” he said finally.
“Absolutely! I would LOVE that. Let’s remember to tell Mommy in the morning okay?” I said with relief dripping from every word.
“Good night! I love you” and I closed the door and walked downstairs.
When I returned to my bed, finally, my heart still racing, thumping in my chest from the adrenaline rush of his first, almost unheard, cry. I looked at the clock and couldn’t believe what I saw.