October 7-13 was Fire Prevention week here in Canada. Since my youngest daughter R is home-schooled, I set up a whole Fire Safety Day for a portion of the home-schooling community. There were 3 information sessions offered throughout the day with different topics and aimed at different age groups. During one of the sessions my daughter R and I were in, she learned that she should be sleeping with her bedroom door closed.
This fact proved to be stressful for my R. Her routine at bedtime had been this: I tuck her in, she reads a book for awhile, when she is done reading she turns off her reading light, cocoons herself into her blankets, and goes to sleep. Her bedroom door stays open and the hall light stays on.
After learning the bedroom door fact, R’s natural tendencies towards anxiety were going strong. She was feeling really torn about the information she learned and her already established routines. If we left the door open, she would be anxious about not doing her part to stay safe in case of a fire, and if we closed it, she would be anxious about being in her bedroom at night with the door closed. I’m not entirely sure why this makes her uncomfortable, but it does. And hey, we all have our fears that we face in our own time, but I wasn’t about to force her to face them. Anyway, the situation appeared to be lose-lose at this point.
I knew that I didn’t want to downplay either of her fears. And I didn’t want to tell her that I’m sure there’s not going to be a fire… because that’s a lie. I know multiple people who have had house fires. As much as I would like to be all knowing at certain times, I’m just not. So, we needed to think this one through. Having a stressed out child at bedtime wasn’t an option, but it also physically pained my heart to see her in such distress over the matter. Of course I wanted to do what I could to make it better for her.
I asked her, “can we just shut your door and you can sleep with your reading/night-light?”
But her response was, “I can’t fall asleep with the light on in my room, only the hall light.”
Hmmm. “What if you go to sleep exactly like you normally do. And then after you are asleep, I will come i quietly and move the lamp to another spot that won’t be so bright. I’ll make sure to turn it on so that if you do wake up in the middle of the night you have a light still. Then I will close the door so you don’t have to worry about the fire issue and I will still keep the hallway light on too. Would that work?”
She was receptive to the idea but first we needed to test it to make sure the light would be enough but not too bright. We tested. She was pleased with the results.
Now every night before I can go to sleep, I perform this ritual so that she will be comfortable in her room and her anxieties are alleviated.
This is what parents do for their children. This is exactly what loving a child unconditionally consists of.