“Mommy, I’m scared.”
Twice already, I have shooed him back to his bed with clipped reminders that his body needs a good night’s sleep and that there is nothing to be scared of. And anyway, if he keeps getting up, he is going to lose his nightlight. These approaches aren’t worth spit. I take a deep breath and remind myself that the kid does not need consequences. He needs a hand.
“Baby, it’s two hours past your bedtime. Sleep is the only thing that will make you feel better. There is nothing to be scared about.”
“But I just am scared.” His eyes well up and his little voice rises to a sob. Boy, do I know that feeling. Logic is about as effective against it as a wet noodle.
“Oh, sweetie, come on. Let’s go.” I set aside the shirt I am folding and try to shake off the list of unfinished tasks squatting on my shoulders. I put my hand on my little boy’s chest, turn him and guide him back to his room. “Hop up, into bed.”
He crawls under his Dora blanket. His lips are quivering. In the gentlest voice I can manage, I say, “I know you are scared, but it is just a feeling. There is nothing to be scared about.” My words are a stroll along the riverbank. My palm draws lazy circles on his chest. “Your grandma is here, your grandaddy, your mommy. Even your doggy and your kitty. Everyone is here in the house with you. We are all getting ready to sleep. You are safe.”
“I know,” he squeaks. “But I am scared of what is under the bed.” He tenses again and starts to shiver.
I don’t change my tone of voice or the quality of my touch. Dull and rhythmic. “Only happy things are under the bed. Your box of gold coins. Your yellow Sit & Spin. Some books that have fallen down the side. A bunch of loose legos.” I take a deep breath and blow it out. “Breathe in warm, quiet air,” I whisper. “Then let it go.”
He turns to the side and presses his back into my hand. “Let your mind wander to all the happy things we did today. We baked sourdough bread together, mixing and kneading and watching it rise. We played that silly running game when we walked the dog. We made the lego horse trailer. We found the rectangles and the crescents.”
“The star,” he says with a yawn. “I found the octagon.”
“Breath in the happy things,” I whisper. “The warm, quiet air.” I do this myself. “Then let it go.” I blow out my breath. I do this again and then again. I feel his shoulders loosen under my fingers.
“Remember how we cuddled on the couch and read that new book, A Prairie Dog for the President, and how Lewis and Clark made that animal pop up out of its hole. That was so funny. We laughed and laughed.”
I take another round of deep breaths. “So many happy things happened today. Just breathe them all into your belly and let them swirl around your body. Then,” I whisper, “you let all of it go.” I blow out a long breath. “Let all those happy memories float away with the air. Breathe in, fill your tummy. Breathe out. Release it all.”
He nuzzles down into the pillow and after a sigh, his jaw goes slack. I take two more deep breaths just in case, then kiss his cheek and whisper my love into his temple. “Sweet dreams, buddy.”
He is out. So am I.
“Mommy, I’m scared.”