Don’t be afraid of the dark

My 8 year old daughter lives with me 50% of the time. Her mom and I share all her expenses, and decisions in her life. It’s a typical modern arrangement and it works. Mainly. Of course, the stability we’ve engineered isn’t perceived nearly so favorably in the mind of an 8 year old, but we as the adults know it’s the best thing for her right now.

She suffers from night terrors, and growing pains, and a myriad of other symptoms of real and imaginary maladies most nights. I’ve spent many many hours sat on the end of her bed just being a presence there so she can feel safe and finally drift off to sleep. It’s lucky that my own sleep requirements are lessened with age, but I sure do know at least one reason why people generally have kids in their 20s and 30s. The energy required is colossal and it’s a real challenge to muster it up most of the time. But we do. I know her mom has similar issues. We choose different ways to deal, but both have our daughters best interests front and center.

I’m sat at the end of her bed right now, having comforted her through some recurring headaches she insists have been going on for a few days. I’ve done everything I know how to – taken temperature (97.2F), administered children’s Advil and reassured for hours, and she’s finally managed to get to sleep. It’s restless though, so I don’t know how long this is going to last.

This all got me thinking – what is it about the dark that puts the fear of God into us? It is after all just the absence of light. The physical environment doesn’t change, except for the lack of photons doing their merry dance on everything. The dark represents the unknown, and what might be lurking in there to do us harm. It’s the mind, in other words that constructs all manner of ghoulies and beasties to be scared of. They’re no less real to an 8 year old though. Her terror is real, and her need for reassurance is real, so here I sit. In the dark. Tap tap tapping away on the keys trying not to think of what made that noise. Oh great. Now I’ll never get to sleep.

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