Kyra has been waking during the night, first coming into our room to join us in our seemingly giant king-sized bed, and now, at our insistence, to sleep in her puffy cloud sleeping bag on our floor. Despite the warmth and size of our bed, it already feels crowded with two large adults, the now-grown-to-two collection of body pillows that began when I was pregnant, and the occasional arrival of Lucas during the night as well. Though we previously acquiesced to Kyra's room anxieties by providing both a CD (Mommy singing!) and the closet light all through the night for comfort, her worry about "monsters" seems only to grow. I'm not entirely certain what to credit or blame--the likely culprit is "Monsters, Inc. on Ice," a spontaneous trip provided by a day care teacher who happened to have some extra tickets. The show was months ago, though, and didn't seem to bother Kyra after we initially saw it. The monster worry is in full swing, though.
It begins with the bedtime routine. After bath, pjs, teeth brushed, hair brushed and occasionally chap stick and lotion, Kyra picks out her clothes, selects some stories and climbs into bed as we turn out the overhead light and switch to the more subtle and shaded light in her headboard shelves. With stories and prayers completed, we turn off the headboard light and lie in the dark together--if you can call it that, with the cracks of light from folding closet doors illuminating much of the room. We typically stay for two songs on the CD, decide whether or not to give in to the request for a bonus song, and slowly extricate ourselves from the room with a backrub, a return for an extra hug and kiss, or, on difficult nights, a stormy departure in which we insist we have already stayed long enough! (I should point out that "we" merely means Matt and I take turns--it is rare that we are both with either of the kids together at bedtime. We usually split up, or we are on our own while the other person is on the requisite "night out" that week or working.) When the monster fears kick in, Kyra clings to me, arms wrapped tightly around my neck, begging to sleep in our room because, "I'm afraid of my room. I'm afraid of the monsters." In theory with calm and reassuarance, in actuality with annoyance and frustration, I remind Kyra that she is very creative with a very, very active imagination, and that this gives her the power to believe in things that aren't real. "There aren't monsters, honey, " I tell her, while my own worrisome mind scrolls through large color images of the three registered sex offenders near our street or licks of flame slowly devouring our home, drawing ever more near to Kyra's room where I have expressly forbidden her to leave "unless it's an emergency." Will she remember fire is an emergency? Will she be afraid to come in?
My words tell her monsters aren't real, but what I really mean is that her monsters aren't real. The ones I imagine--the monster of fear that lives within my daughter (likely inherited from her worry-filled momma or auntie), the predatorial monsters that lurk on our streets, the family history of sexual inappropriateness that sometimes positions the most dangerous characters in our memories or even as occasional visitors to our home--these monsters feel very real indeed. So I tuck her in with reassurances that feel like half-truths, uncertain whether I am more guilty about being less than honest or about unconsciously transferring to her this sense that life is something to approach with caution and apprehension rather than abandon and glee.
Last night Kyra appeared on my side of the bed at 2am, stage-whispering stories of a picture in her room that was talking to her. I tucked her into her sleeping bag, deciding wisely to not mention that she will have no television or videos until she again sleeps in her room all night (our current "logical consequence" to keep the imagination at least turned down if not turned off at night), and wondered about this supposed picture. Her story by morning remained the same, and at Matt's prompting, she even drew for us the picture that was to have floated in the air of her room as the four colorful subjects spoke noisily to one another and to her. I briefly thought about describing the few times I have had the privilege of witnessing visually the spirit of my mother, but wasn't certain these visitors to her room felt friendly in the way that my mother was in my encounters. I wasn't feeling certain of much of anything at all.
Monsters are definitely on our minds....