This morning I was awakened at 2:30 AM by a shrieking 3-year-old. OK, to be honest, it didn’t start off as shrieking. It started off as a few whimpers and calls for “mommy.” I was up immediately –mommy spidey sense?–but within a few minutes the whimpers escalated into crying and shouts of “I want my mommy.” Who could resist that? When I had settled Daniel down and was cuddling him, I asked him what upset him and he said it was his special star (the camera for the video monitor).
After some sweet cuddle time, Daniel was asleep and we had no more issues. However, it was impossible to miss his anxiety at the smoke detector in his room during tuck time tonight. Daniel has had a love-hate relationship with smoke detectors since the unit on firemen at daycare a few weeks ago. On the one hand, he loves to point them out and talk about what they do (keep us safe). On the other hand, he is wary of the flashing light our smoke detectors occasionally have.
We tell him they are useful. We tell they are good. We tell him they help keep him safe. He hears us and understands what we are saying, but deep down, he is still afraid of the blinking smoke detector.
I know that developing fears of the dark and what’s under the bed are normal for this age, but it cuts us to the quick to see him so vulnerable. Everything in his life right now is a teachable moment, but I feel the sweet weight of parenting in those moments during bedtime when we need to explain smoke detectors and their usefulness.
Daniel is 3 years old and while that seems SO old to us because we easily remember the 6 pound 8 ounce newborn we brought home, he is still in so many ways a baby. Tonight I cuddled him and tried to explain why he didn’t need to be afraid of the smoke detector, struggling to adjust my vocabulary to something he could understand.
There is a delicacy in these moments. How you respond to these fears will shape so much or at least that’s my opinion. Will he feel supported? Will he feel comforted. Most importantly, will he feel protected and secure?
That’s our goal for him. To build a life in which he feels secure both physically and psychologically. To know that mommy and daddy will be there for hugs and kisses when he needs them and above all that he can depend on us.
It breaks my heart a little to know that he is scared of the smoke detector, that he is scared of anything, but I know it is necessary. I hope that we can provide the security blanket he needs while granting him permission to explore his world.