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Monday, February 13, 2012

Growing Up

The other day my mom asked me why I didn't turn off the light in the baby's room when I put her to sleep.

"Don't you think it'll calm her a bit? Help her relax?" she asked.

I told her that every time the baby falls asleep with me and I turn off the light she wakes up, and I don't want to disturb her once I've finally got her to bed. Which is true--she's very sensitive to change when she's asleep. If she's going to bed with me and she falls asleep first--which is the only way that situation actually works--I have to sleep with the light on because I'd rather do that than risk having to go through the motions to get her to sleep again. If we're in the car and she falls asleep with the radio on, I can't turn it off. The same goes for the mobile in her crib, so I just stopped using it, because it turns off automatically after 10 minutes or so. Basically, I'm a pansy, but nothing is worse than spending an hour, or two, or three, getting a baby to sleep and having to start all over when the dog barks or some slight change in atmosphere disturbs her slumber.

She asked me again a week later. "You know, you could always turn off the light in there before she falls asleep, and bring her in later."

I said I know, but I didn't want to fall over the rug, or my feet, or air molecules, as I've been known to do. (My middle name is Grace, an irony my family was all too eager to capitalize on. That awkward clumsy phase may have been endearing at ten years old, understandable at thirteen. At twenty-two, it's just embarrassing.)

But the third time she asked, after a particularly difficult night involving very little sleep, I'd run out of excuses. I hadn't even realized I'd been making excuses until that point. After all, even if they were excuses they were still valid and logical.

So why couldn't I just turn off the light?

And that's when I realized: I'm afraid of the dark. Or rather, I remembered I'm afraid of the dark. I'd come to terms with my fear long ago; ironically, I can't even sleep well without the darkness. I don't like going outside at night, and I refuse to go downstairs in the dark. But otherwise, I don't bother it and it doesn't bother me.

So I hadn't even considered the possibility that my fear of the dark could affect anyone else. But, faced with the nagging scrutiny only mothers can master, I had to admit that I was making excuses. I didn't like the idea of her lying there alone in the dark. But, thinking about it, I realized something: if I didn't want Olivia to grow up afraid of the dark, I would have to grow out of it myself.