It's a horrible feeling, one I know all too well.
Sometimes he wakes in the middle of the night shrieking for someone to come save him. We always do. Sometimes Daddy will lay with him until he falls back asleep, sometimes I scoop him up and hold him close to me in our bed with Bodhi on the other side.
As a child, I remember many a night waking up, afraid to go to the bathroom alone or afraid to even reach for water. Not knowing what lurked in the darkness, I would call for my mommy.
I would hide under a sheet, hating the suffocating feeling of a blanket. The sheet felt so flimsy. I recall breathing quietly so that nothing could sense me, even holding my breath at times. Heaven forbid a sound burst through the darkness.
I don't know what I thought was there. Someone. Something. Anything unknown that would suck me into the darkness forever.
Nothing helped. The only thing that mattered was someone to care, save me, listen and understand.
I wish that I could explain to him that I will always be close. I will always come when he calls.
I wish that I could help him understand that fears are meant to show us what we can go beyond.
But he's three. So I comfort him and show him what going beyond your fear looks like.
I wish that he could comprehend that he is the one that taught me not to be so afraid of the dark.
It sounds silly to me now, but even until I was pregnant, I would not step out of bed without reaching for a light. I still don't like going up the stairs alone to a dark hallway, but I can.
I remember being pregnant and thinking, how can you teach a child not to be afraid of the dark if you are afraid of the dark? That's nuts.
I remember making myself do things in the dark.
My heart would race. My senses would sharpen. I felt so uneasy.
I began by going upstairs without the light on. I would walk into our room without the light on then reach for the dimmer switch so that I could get ready for bed. I would turn the light off and walk across the room, feeling like I had to hop into bed immediately, I did it slowly regardless.
It got easier and easier. I am smiling right now, thinking of a nearly thirty year old woman afraid of walking into a dark room alone.
Now, the feeling isn't completely gone, I just do it. Like so many things as a mother.
Sometimes, I hold Z's hand or carry him upstairs without the light on. He's fine if I'm with him. If he mentions it, I tell him, "It's ok. I'm right here. Did you know that Mama was afraid of the dark? It is scary isn't it? Look, we're doing it together." By the time I'm done we're in bed with his nightlight on.
I hope that it helps him. I hope that one day he will go beyond it. Hopefully, way before he's thirty.
But for now, all we can do is bear with fear together and know that we don't have to conquer them. We can sit side by side with them and say hello, hands quivering and hearts racing. It's the only way.
Now, if I could only enjoy swimming in a lake...