When picking Daniel up from school on Thursday he exclaims “Mom, I got some stickers today!!! See!?” Awesome… Daniel’s excitement about a sheet of cartoon germ and virus stickers misleads me into thinking he actually liked the video and demonstration on how to stay healthy by keeping our hands clean. As we saunter to the van, Andy bobbing sleepily in his car seat along the way, Daniel tells me all about germs, viruses, protozoa and bacteria. Chatting happily, the sun warming our faces, we talk about his day, blissfully unaware of what a nightmare awaits us tonight.
As Daniel seems quite keen on the concept of hand-washing to battle the baddies, we decide to use his stickers to make a little poster. Positive re-enforcement – we give ourselves a pat on the back for our stellar parenting skills. The thought is to put it on his door to remind him to keep his hands clean, etc.
Cheerfully, we look on as he places the stickers on the bright blue sheet of paper. “Ooooo, that’s a scary one Daniel” I comment as he places a cartoon protozoa on his poster. “This germ’s really bad Mom, it can kill you.” Daniel’s dead serious too. He’s no longer using his funny play voice, but his I-mean-business voice. My quick reply to him that that’s why hand washing is so important does nothing to reassure him. Uh-oh. As he continues to dwell on the thought of the germ, Daryle and I try explain that the germ isn’t going to kill us. Not in the near future anyhow. However, Daniel remains very focused on the germ. Within minutes we put the poster away and try to distract him by talking about other things.
That night, for the first time in years, Daniel requests a nightlight. With Andy already asleep in his crib, I quietly try to find a nightlight for Daniel’s room. I rifle through Andy’s armoire… here we are… Daniel’s old moon lamp will do just fine. Now, where on earth are the electrical outlets in this room? After managing not to tip over Daniel’s stack of games on his bookcase, I get the lamp plugged in and Daniel settles into bed. He tells me he’s afraid that the germs are going to come and get him in the night. In my tired state, I tell him that germs don’t care whether it is light or dark, they don’t have eyes. Well, didn’t that just set the poor guy up for a bunch of nightmares?!!
Daniel could not stay in bed. Period. He wanted me to snuggle with him in his bed, then when I went to my own, he decided to visit Daryle out on the couch in the living room. Roughly an hour later, he woke me up to ask to climb into bed with me. As I thought Daryle might come to bed soon, I set Daniel up with a soft towel from the bathroom and a blanket from the living room. He added his pillow to complete his makeshift bed on the floor near me. Unable to settle, he talked and talked and talked. This isn’t working – back to bed kiddo. “Mommeeee, I can’t sleep.” “You don’t need to sleep, just lay there with your eyes closed and think of things that make you happy.” Well, you get the drift of how the night went…
It wasn’t much better the next night either. I tried to implement his Clifford stuffie as a confidant for him. “Tell Clifford all about your DS and what you’re looking forward to in school tomorrow.” Daniel still got up half a dozen times. He tries so hard to stay in his bed. As the night crawls on his calls wake me: Mommeeeee… I need an adult to be beside me. Mommeeeee… I’m lonely. Mommeeeee… It’s too dark. Mommeeeee… the germs are going to get me.
By Sunday he’s an emotional wreck. The lack of sleep and constant worrying have reduced him to a teary-eyed overwrought fretting little guy. Tears running down his cheeks and his nose running he approaches me and claims “I’ll be sad when you’re dead Mommy.” Yikes! Explaining further he says that the germs are going to get me and Daryle. Oh dear, this is spiralling out of control. Despite spending the weekend trying to reassure him, he’s more freaked out than ever.
Sunday night I implement our battle plan. We’re going to give Daniel a bath every night just before bed to wash all the germs down the drain. EVERY NIGHT. Not such a bad thing. Daniel agrees that the germs won’t be able to come and get him if they’ve been washed down the drain. Good.
It is now the following Saturday and I’m very pleased to report that Daniel is again sleeping through the night. Our bedtime routine has been slightly modified to include an extended story time in addition to the bath. Together these two things make for a very relaxing, bonding bedtime. Daniel isn’t feeling lonely, and the germs have been banished down the drain.