Or, How I Emotionally Scarred My Child Right Before Kissing Him Goodnight
Or, Sometimes It's Pretty Much Okay to Lie to Your Kid When Necessary to Induce Sleep
One of the Boy's main objectives once he turned 5 last month was to take over the basement. His vision for the Land of O was all-inclusive. He insisted on getting started, so this weekend, we succumbed to the challenge and began to move some serious furniture.
The guest room formerly known as Katie's room? That's now his bedroom. The computer office is now his Lego construction desk. The custom library with built in shelves is the new toyroom. Everything that was for "growing-ups" is in the process of being moved upstairs so that he can reign supreme on his new kingdom. All the shelves that formerly housed scholarly readings and Grisham novels and CD cases now hold marble tracks and train tracks and car packs and block sacks and his semi Mack and other knick knacks. (Can you tell we've been reading a lot of Fox in Socks lately? My mouth hurts just thinking about it)
Saturday night was his first night sleeping downstairs. He did great! Never a peep out of him, no late night wanderings upstairs, no calls in the dark. He awoke Sunday refreshed and excited about his day. Night #2 was last night, and it was a completely different story. He arrived in our upstairs bedroom around 3:30am. He couldn't sleep anymore downstairs, he had a nightmare he said, and wanted to climb into our bed. We obliged this time - because I'm pretty sure it was my fault.
He won't tell us what his nightmare was - just that he had had one. But I already know what it was.
With the new room fully furnished and right next door to the furnace, I decided naively that bedtime was an excellent time to review his fire escape route out his egress window (first, you move this stick, then you unlock this latch, then you slide the window open, then you climb out the window, then you climb up out of the window well into that snowbank there...then....). Even as I was explaining his new strategy, using my breeziest voice possible, I could see the distance between his room and his parents' room sinking in as the number of steps in the process toward unburned freedom added up. Let's practice, my stupidity suggested. He moved the stick. He undid the latch. He couldn't slide the window - too heavy. Mild panic. (for both of us). Try again, push from over here I encouraged. He was able to open the window, but was now doubting his self-sufficiency, and I imagine he was questioning the wisdom of his request for the basement empire.
He did fall asleep around 9 last night, but he was clutching his flashlight (which was turned on) and with his slipper shoes right next to his bed (he was worried his feet would get cold if he had to walk to the neighbor's house in his bare feet). Before I could leave the room, he needed several reassurances that the house was not, in fact, going to spontaneously combust.
Where will you meet me once I'm outside?
Right outside your window. Or, at Matthew's house - look - see? His house is right there outside your window.
Okay. Will I hear the siren?
Will it wake me up?
Will you rescue me?
What if you can't?
That's why we're talking about the window.
Oh. Can't I just go up the stairs?
Probably can. But we're talking about the window too. As an option.
But I'd rather go up the stairs.
Me too. Actually, I'd rather not have a fire at all. We probably won't ever have one.
Ever? Dad, have you ever seen a real fire?
This was the questions I was dreading. Thankfully, my brain screamed lie lie lie lie before I could say the truth, which is Actually, I've seen two, son - one where Great Grandma B's house burned to the ground and everyone narrowly escaped by jumping out the second story window and one when I was about your age when the furnace/chimney down in the basement started on fire while we were all sleeping. Instead, I said as sincerely as I could muster:
After a long pause with him staring at my eyes, (and my brain screaming Hold your ground! Hold your ground!), he accepted this answer, and laid his head down on his pillow, embracing his flashlight.
I can't help but wonder if last night will come up with his therapist as an adult.
Sunny and warm summer mornings are an excellent time to talk about escaping house fires with 5 year olds. Basically, anytime other than Right Before We Leave You Down Here Alone in the Dark and Quiet Basement is a good time. Live and learn.