Here's a little background: Dd co-slept with us from birth and was never left to CIO. I always attended to her every need at night despite her frequent nightwakings- seriously sometimes every 30-60 minutes, though usually every 2 hours. I initiated night-weaning at 18 months b/c of severe sleep deprivation. She eventually night-weaned and started sleeping from bedtime until morning when she was 2. We transitioned her without any issues to her own room at 2.5. This is also about the age she dropped her nap entirely. At 3, her baby brother was born and since we were hanging around the house a lot more, she started taking naps again off and on. At 3.5 she started pre-school and naps became a daily occurrence- much to my happiness! Dd naps for 1-2.5 hours every afternoon and goes to bed around 7:30 or 8pm every night. She goes down like clockwork, telling us she's tired. We figured she was tired from school, growing, etc. and really needed all this sleep. At bedtime, dh or I will lay down next to her for a few minutes and then say goodnight. She happily wishes us goodnight, tells us bye, and rolls over with her eyes closed. Occasionally, we'll hear her get up to get a drink of water or use the bathroom (she's been night potty trained since 2.5 years old). Now dd is nearly 4 (in one month) and we just discovered something, well, surprising.
A few nights ago, dh went past her room and heard her running around, moving her step stool, banging toys, etc. As he opened the door, she ran back to her bed and pretended to be asleep. Dh asked her what she had been doing and this is where it gets interesting.
She burst into tears, appearing afraid that she was going to get into trouble if she revealed what she had been doing. Dh calmed her down and reassured her that we are always there for her to talk to, that she can always come get us if she needs something. She tells him tearfully she spilled water in her bed. He tells her it's okay, he can cover it with a blanket and she can sleep on the other side of the bed. She exclaims that she can't sleep on the other side of the bed b/c when she wakes up in the night she can see herself in the mirror from that side and it scares her. She has never mentioned this before. She's been sleeping with that mirror for a year and a half. She further explains to him that she is afraid of her whole room. It's too dark (despite a nightlight and blinds that don't block the outside lights) so she gets up every night, moves her step stool up to her windows and opens her blinds. On she goes... the toy bins along the wall look like animals and they scare her. Her dress up clothes hanging on hooks have to be rearranged every night so that the color of the clothing item matches the color of the hook. All the toys have to be put back in specific locations. Mr. Potato Head has to be standing vigil from her dresser. The list goes on. She has never uttered a word about these things to us before. Apparently, every night for who knows how long, she has been getting out of bed, playing with her toys and rearranging things until she gets tired enough to fall asleep. She even said that if she doesn't get tired she just sits there until it's light outside. OMG!
Well, we immediately covered her mirror with a sheet and I helped her rearrange anything else in her room that was upsetting her. But, last night, I heard her again. So I went upstairs to see what she would say to me instead of dh. She told me pretty much the same things. I tried to get out of her how long this has been going on, but it's so easy to lead on a 4 year old based on how you phrase things. She also is quite adept at saying what she thinks she should say, has been known to make things up and at times, outright lie. So it is difficult to figure out the exact truth. It is possible she has been doing this since her brother was born. Perhaps it started when her naps started again. I asked her if she does this on days that she has skipped her nap and she said yes. Who knows if that's true or not, but I do know that she doesn't do this when we're on vacation and sleeping in other people's houses.
You can imagine my surprise and my sadness at finding all this out. We have always been so careful to make her feel safe in sleep. Why couldn't she come to us with her fears? Are they legitimate fears or was she saying she was afraid to avoid us getting upset at her for being out of bed? If the latter is the case, where did this fear of our anger come from when we've always been so attentive to her nighttime needs? And I'm not sure what to make of her sleep pattern and the needs she expressed regarding the arrangement of her toys in her room. Does this sound a little OCD? Or just normal 4 year old imagination at work? Is it okay to let her play in her room for hours, alone until she falls asleep? Or should we eliminate her naps so that she's more tired at night or have her come out of her room and be part of the family as long as she's awake?
Has anyone else BTDT? Thanks in advance for any insight you can give me!
Edited by Jaimee - 12/14/10 at 8:53am