But some things are out of our control...
Lady M is in grade one this year, and she is settling in beautifully. A couple of weeks ago, her entire school (it's very small) headed out on a field trip, enjoying a conservation area nearby. Returning a little bit early from their day-long excursion, a movie was put on in the gym for all kids, grades 1 through 8. Though it's a challenge to find a film that will suit kids who range in age from 5 to 13, Scooby Doo was the chosen movie, seemingly appropriate for most littles in attendance.
As a child of the 80's, my big brother and I indulged in our fair share of Scooby Doo. I quite enjoyed Shaggy, Scrappy, Daphne and the Mystery Van, and I even married a man who does an impressive Scooby Doo impression. I can't ever recall feeling scared by their misadventures, or by the mysteries they were solving. But let me tell you, Lady M sure did.
It's been about three weeks since the fateful school movie viewing, and in that time, Lady M has not been able to fall asleep by herself at night. She's terrified that 'bad guys' are going to climb in her window and has been in fits of tears and sobs if we try to leave her room before she falls asleep at night; what an awful way to feel as you're trying to close your eyes. She simply needs someone here with her, so Cal and I have been taking our turns ensuring she's well asleep before we leave her room. As I write this, I'm sitting at the end of her bed, on my iPad, waiting for her to drift off into a dreamland that is sweet, peaceful, and free from "bad guys".
Truth be told, this phase has been simultaneously breaking my heart and frustrating me. Seeing my kids upset is awful. But of course, as any parent knows, the small window of adult time between the kids' bedtime and my bedtime is a sacred thing and it's being interrupted every night!
However, I can recall a fear like this that plagued me when I was a little girl, which helps me put it all in perspective. The year that I was 7, The Little Mermaid was released in theatre. I went to see it, as many little girls did that year, and I instantly fell in love with the underwater world, laughed at Sebastian's bad attitude, giggled at Flounder's cuteness, and felt thoroughly happy when Ariel received her human legs. What I didn't realize was the significant impact that the very beginning of the movie would have on me. If you've seen it, you may recall the boat fire scene at the outset of the story. Apparently that really stuck with me, beyond singing 'Part of Your World' and 'Under the Sea' because for months after, I couldn't fall asleep at night.
Thanks to the movie colliding with one of the fire safety talks at school, my 7-year-old self was terrified that there would be a fire in my house, and I incessantly reviewed the fire escape plan in our home. Mainly, I needed to know how my parents planned to get my brother, myself and our two dogs, Bandit and Pirate, to safety in case a blaze broke out in the middle of the night. I can still recall needing one of my parents with me each night to fall asleep almost 25 years after the experience.
Lady M and I are similar, I suppose, in the way we react to things. Apparently animated features really wreak havoc on us! Having worked at a renowned Animation school for many years, I tried to explain to her tonight how all of these animated characters are simply made up out of someone's imagination, then then brought to life by a pencil or a computer, explaining that I've seen it with my own eyes! I suppose that's hard to fathom, but she seemed to soak it in a little. Maybe it will ease her worries over the coming nights...but maybe not.
My Little Mermaid memories flood my mind when the selfish part of me wants my 'adult time'. Sitting here while my little girl falls sweetly into dreamland is worth it giving up a little extra of my 'own' time, and in the time it's taken me to write this, she has fallen into a deep, restful sleep.
I know this phase won't last forever, but if I can make it a little easier on her - as my parents did for me - then I'm happy to do so.