Our kids are now older and they are accustomed to sleeping in their own beds.
It is normally not an issue and they retire without much fuss on most nights. If they do fuss, at nearly 4 and 5 and a half, it usually stems from wanting to complete something like a book, a puzzle or to make sure all of our son’s glow-in-the dark Green Lantern rings are accounted for and visible from his pillow.
But, one weekend night, our son was a little weepy and he clung to my neck holding his favorite blanket and said, “I don’t wanna go to bed. It’s too dark in there. I wanna sleep with you, momma.”
And, because my husband and I planned to retire soon ourselves, we figured it wouldn’t hurt anything. It isn’t uncommon for us to go to sleep with four feet in the bed and to wake up with eight on the mattress, so we’d just have a cozy family bed on this weekend night.
It was thundering and raining outside. If there were any night to do it, it was THIS blustery, wet night.
For some background on this particular story, it is important to note that when the kids were young, we were co-sleepers using an attached crib-like item that enabled me to quickly respond to our baby. It was a real life-saver as a working-nursing mom.
As the kids became older (and it doesn’t happen to all co-sleeping parents and it may happen sooner than it did for us for other parents), the co-sleeping arrangements ceased to work for all parties involved.
As the radial impact and momentum of flailing, formerly diminutive but constantly growing limbs increased, co-sleeping for us ensured peaceful, restful sleep for only half of the King-sized bed’s occupants. Those of us with the greatest body mass spent most nights clinging to the precipices of the deceptively small foam-cushion top.
For voluntary co-sleepers, joyous and fulfilling as it is in many ways, this is also the reality of many nights from the very funny How To Be A Dad website!
And this is what my side of the bed looked like until we started to gently nudge our children toward their own beds a couple of years ago.
So, with this knowledge, one might appreciate why this particular night was special.
My husband and I knew that we would soon each be half-draped down the sides of our beds with our heads resting somewhere between those end tables and our mattress within hours of our kids achieving their characteristic REM-induced spider-sprawl in the center of our bed.
That would be okay because this was going to be a Whole-Family-Under-The-Covers-Thunderstorm-Night. My husband and I reasoned our son was clearly scared of the dark, the flickering outside lights and the loud sounds.
As the kids settled under the quilts, I went downstairs to get some water.
I got a hankering, out of the blue, for a very odd thing by most standards.
Have you ever heard of Kim-Chi?
It is a Korean side-dish, a sort of pickled cabbage- only it is not pickled in vinegar or salt as much as it is eternally preserved in fiery red chili peppers and garlic.
It is a polarizing condiment, loved by those who grew up with it and became desensitized to the stank-ness of it and loathed by those whose fears of the smell and wilted appearance cannot be overcome.
Growing up and even now, kim-chi warrants its own refrigerator, often in the garage to ensure that the garlicky-peppery-fermented-y smell does not assault any senses or unsuspecting air particles in the home.
For some reason, kim-chi just sounded GOOD right before bedtime. So, I grabbed a fork and slopped a few cabbage leaves out of the jar. I grabbed the water and walked upstairs.
I laid down in bed. My little son’s face was near my own. I bantered with my husband about some things we had to do tomorrow, some deadlines we had to meet, yadda yadda yadda.
And all of a sudden, my son’s head popped up out of the covers and he said,
“Um. I think I’m gonna sleep in my own bed.”
Surprised, I said, “Really?”
The storm had heightened and had become louder. There was more flashing behind the closed blinds.
And he nodded to me.
“I thought you were afraid of the dark and the storm sounds, Son?”
“Um, No. I wanna sleep in my own bed,” he said as he grabbed his pillow.
I realized at this point that I had been talking next to his face with that nuclear kim-chi breath!
So, I said, “Son, is it because mama smells like Kim-Chi?”
And he nodded in agreement.
“But, what if mama faces away from you and goes to sleep?”
He considered my co-sleeping offer for a moment and then said,
“Uh. WHERE IS MY BLANKET??!!!”
We found his favorite blanket under the covers and he stomped off in his Batman Sleeper disappearing into the hallway where we guessed he retired to his own bed just before the power outage.
His fears of the dark and the thunder were instantly gone.
He no longer needed Us: his Kim-Chi-Smelly-Mom or his Hysterically Laughing Dad.
So, Parents, I pass this gem to you.
Those of you who struggle to find answers to your child’s fears of the dark, the flashing lightening, the boogey-man, or any other afear-edness that leads him or her into your bed to the detriment of quality sleep, please feel free to try this method.
Keep a jar of Kim-Chi in your fridge for emergencies.
I bet it’ll work every time.
The spare fridge is optional but highly recommended.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE YOUR KIDS’ FEARS OF THE DARK OR OTHER BEDTIME WORRIES?