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4 year-old Summer has developed a real fear of the dark when it’s time to go to sleep. It all started when she had a dream about this evil guy named Haman. Turns out Haman is not a bully from her preschool class or a deviant Congressman. She learned about him during a celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim.

Apparently this Haman tried to destroy the Jews but did not succeed and when children hear the story of Purim they hoot and hiss with great fanfare whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.

I think my husband felt a little nervous when he heard Haman was the start of Summer’s night time phobia because it is very important to Rick that our kids be raised Jewish.  And nobody mentioned this Haman character to me during our pre-wedding interfaith class.

But I don’t blame Rick. Surely, the image of J.C. being nailed to a cross would not help Summer rest any easier.

We’ve done everything we can to help Summer sleep. She insists on keeping a light on in their room. Plus the hall lights. Plus the bathroom lights. It’s so bright that I have no idea how Dylan or Summer are able to fall asleep but apparently, they eventually do. Or maybe they are vampires. Who really cares as long as it’s quiet in their bedroom.

Often before bed, Summer will cry because she is scared and then we go through a list of things that make her feel happy like ice cream, swimming, going to the beach, her favorite TV shows, the color aqua marine blue and her cousins.

If she’s still nervous, I tell her to look at one of her favorite books, and when she feels tired, close her eyes and she’ll dream about the vocab show-off Fancy Nancy instead of that jerk Haman.

The other night I finally got Summer to sleep and not long after, she was crying again. I went back upstairs, calmed her down, tucked her in and she said to me with lots of enthusiasm…

“You know when Regan our neighbor cracked open her head and had to be rushed to the hospital?! There was tons of blood. TONS. And her mommy said it took four people at the hospital to hold her down so they could sew her back up. That’s a lot of people.”

“Summer, just a thought here. Thinking about stuff like that is not going to help you sleep.” I was starting to wonder how I was going to shut my eyes later that night.  “And Regan is just fine now.”

“Yes, but it took FOUR people to hold her down.”

“Goodnight Summer. I love you.”

That’s a Fancy Nancy way of saying “I’m not coming back upstairs again. Go to sleep. Your room is brighter than Yankee Stadium. This conversation is over. I’m starving. I need a glass of wine. I’m not talking about Regan’s bloody head anymore. See you tomorrow lady.”

32 Responses to my kid is afraid of the dark

  • Elissa says:

    Not sure what the Haman and bleeding head equivalent is, but my 3 year old is often scared of alligators, bugs, bears, monsters, etc. If we seem to be having one of those nights we get out our special anti-monster/alligator/bug/bear/etc. spray (an empty spray bottle). We spray that magic spray in any and all portions of the room where those horrible nightmare-inducing creatures may be hiding or have previously appeared.

    A friend of mine uses more of a dream-catcher type approach – a magical item under the pillow that wards off bad dreams. Might be a bit more useful for your type of bad dreams.

    • Rosstwinmom says:

      We do shadow spray in our house too. We eventually didn’t have to use it anymore as they got over it. We also practiced telling the shadows to be quiet and let us sleep as we lay down. It made them feel good to know they could tell the noisy shadows (Seriously? My kids are silly.) not to bother them. Empowering and fun.

  • Jenn says:

    We pray – my logic is that God beat Haman back then (not Jewish, but Christianity came from somewhere!!) so we’re pretty sure He can do it again, in Bunnys bedroom. Also, God put big Angels with Firey (??) swords at the gates of Eden to protect it, so we just ask that He put big Angels with firey swords in Bunny’s room to protect her too. Then we sleep fine with the lights off… although the heater (winter here) has a read light that glows, as does the electric blanket, so it’s not entirely dark if she wakes up in the middle of the night.

  • My mom used to leave a handkerchief with her perfume sprayed on it under my pillow. If I got scared, she said, I was to sniff the hankie, and all the bad things I was frightened of would go away, because the smell on the hankie was so good. Whenever she went away, she did the same thing, so I always had her “smell” near my nose when I went to sleep. I even took it with me to boarding school! It worked for me…..

  • We used a dream catcher for one of our sons who was having a really hard time sleeping. We hung it in the corner and explained the whole process of how the bad dreams aren’t smart and they get stuck on the webs of the dream catcher but the good dreams are really happy and smart and they know to slip through the middle of the dream catcher and circle around the room, leaving good feelings all night long.

    We also had a routine of ‘pushing all the energy’ of the day out of his body each night. I would start by firmly pressing down each of his legs and all the way through and out his toes and then move to the arms and hands and end up giving a relaxing massage to the head. It seemed to help get him in a relaxed state for peaceful sleep.

    And if these two tactics failed, I too used the ‘good night Caleb’ and left him with lights on.

    Good luck!

  • Bren says:

    My daughter has no less than 5 nightlights in her room – all because of the story of David and Goliath! Guess those religious stories strike a fear! She doesn’t talk about it anymore but refuses to let go of all the lights. Not sure how she sleeps with all the light but she does!

  • Valerie says:

    My daughter started having nightmares after attending VBS last year and was actually worried about attending this year (until she found out pandas were somehow involved). It is so hard to overcome it too! Hopefully something else catches her attention soon. And, I’m loving all these wonderful ideas!

  • red pen mama says:

    I like the dreamcatcher and perfumed hanky ideas. we are having a similar problem with our 4yo right now; she just won’t sleep alone in her bed. I thought we had overcome this (through the power of bribes and zuzu puppies), but she’s regressed.

    I will also say we use melatonin with the kids. Just 1mg, and not every night. it helps prep their bodies for sleep. But both my girls are addicted to nightlights, and the bathroom light, and we have a nighttime routine we adhere too. When the kids don’t sleep right, parents don’t either. Good luck!

  • If only I could tell you how much Hamman is ruined the sleep of young Jewish children… that JERK!

    For me it was always Elijah who would come in on Passover and steal a piece of Matzo. You have to keep a door open for him and then the Matzo would be gone. I never understood. “CLOSE THE DOOR FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”

    • memer says:

      umm………. it’s the wine that elija comes to drink….. and the door is open for no more than a minute…… he’s a good figure, not a bad one…. and, for crying out loud, we open the door as a sign of WELCOME and provide him wine as a sign of hospitality…. where the heck did you get the idea that he steals??

      • Becky says:

        This was just my memory as a child. I, in no way meant any disrespect to Elija… and yes you are right, it’s wine and the matzo is hidden.
        As a child it was very scary to me that a “ghost” was coming into the house. And it sure felt longer than a minute.

  • Meg D says:

    Agree with Maria. Just made me the think of that awesome “Go the F*ck to Sleep” book.

    Not minimizing Summer’s pain, just trying to see the humor in it from the parent’s end of things. Bad dreams are toughies.

  • Nancy Walton says:

    Even at 4 years old, Summer is showing what excellent taste she has. Aquamarine blue is my favorite color, too!

  • Jessica says:

    My daughter also has to sleep with the lights on (nightlight and hall light). She just turned two, though, so we can’t really talk it out with her or anything. I think she’s only scared of the dark – nothing more specific. Its pretty annoying, though, since our room is across the hall from hers and we hate sleeping with the hall light on! Even with our door closed, the light comes through around the edges of the door. Plus, I’m pregnant and get up 2-3 times a night to pee. When the door is closed, I usually run into it. That’s fun.

    • Jordana says:

      I’m with Marinka – I’m certainly not looking forward to Summer learning some contemporary Jewish history when she meets another evil “H” who was no friend to the Jews. I sometime still get nightmares. It’s not easy bein’ a Jew!

      • Aunt Marcia (Guess Whose?' says:

        Catholics have it worse. Very funny movie where the mother is putting her young son to bed and reading from ‘the bible?’ about a big bird plucking out the eyes of someone..(with all the gory details)..she then kisses her son goodnight and says, ‘pleasant dreams’….I bet the children of Athiests sleep best.

  • Stasha says:

    On the bright side, all this blood talk, being able to go with very little rest and sleep with the lights on is setting her up for a future as a surgeon.

  • Catherine says:

    My kid can’t sleep either, and he’s six. He always wants to turn the lights on and read or draw until he’s sleepy enough to fall asleep. Which would be fine, except he keeps himself awake forever and then he’s a zombie the next day. Or he wants me to lie in his bed with him until he’s asleep, which is sweet and nice, but not a good long-term solution. And I’m 7 months pregnant, and dreading what will happen when I am dealing with a newborn every evening.
    We dealt with this years ago, and it was fine for awhile, but the sleeping issues are back. I’m going to try some of the ideas in the comments here!

  • tracy says:

    Have you tried baking some hamantaschen so she can eat the bad man away?

    My eldest was afraid of the dark, so I made her younger sister sleep with her. They’ve now slept together in the same bed for three years. I never hear a peep.

    • memer says:

      That’s a cool idea!

      I could see her being scared of internalizing him though… maybe if you involve her in the baking process she can add the sugar herself and make the cookies sweet and yummy. Then she can eat them with a glass of milk before bed.

  • When my girls were younger, I had monster repellent (a squirt of perfume) and a bedside lamp that had a pink light bulb in it because everyone knows that monsters hate pink. The room was actually fairly dark with a pink bulb.

  • Aunt Marcia (Guess Whose?' says:

    We’re all afraid of the dark. No perfumed hankys for me, night lights or dream catchers. I’ve got a Smith & Wesson 38 in bed with me….I sleep very well except for the trips to the bathroom. Any solution for that?

  • maura says:

    One of my twins now has a fear of Yoda (She calls him “Yoga”). She wakes up shaking and crying.
    The OTHER twin loves Yoda but has a fear of “Dark Elevator”.
    Cue shaking and crying.

    Perhaps 4 IS too young to watch Star Wars.

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kelcey kintner