“My turtle is not working. Fix it Daddy.”
Its 1:30am in the middle of the night and Johnny is in our room. Like most parents the first thing that comes to our minds as parents is he’s having a nightmare or he’s feeling sick. Our minds race as we try to come out of a deep sleep and figure out what is wrong.
“My turtle is not working. Fix it Daddy.”
That is when we both have a surge of anxiety inside. Johnny has two other night lights in his room besides his turtle and we would prefer to keep the room in as much darkness as possible so he can have a good night sleep. But like so many kids, he’s afraid of the dark and doesn’t want to sleep alone so we have to make some compromises. Johnny has a turtle that soothes him to sleep that his Aunt got him for his birthday five years ago. It doesn’t do stars on the ceiling but instead the feeling of the ocean waves rolling back-and-forth on the ceiling as well as either the sound of the ocean or soothing music. It seems that the soothing ocean light was working but the sound was not working anymore because he’s accidentally dropped it on the floor too many times.
“Daddy fix it fix it please!!!”
We could hear the strong emotion in his voice and we knew that he was about to have a meltdown. It is not a tantrum because he wants us to do something that he wants even though at first blush someone might think that. Rather, it’s because the one thing that helps soothe him to sleep and the one thing he can count on is not working the way it should. He’s probably been lying there for a little while trying to get it to work and is now on the edge of meltdown. His constant world is beginning to fall apart. What more can go wrong? If turtle is broken what else that makes him feel good might not work next? Reason does not work and unfortunately the more you say the worse it can get. So in our tired state we attempt to try to get his turtle to work so we can all go to sleep. His Daddy changed the batteries and it still doesn’t work properly and Johnny refused to go to sleep and wants us to figure out how to fix it. We feel like we’re on an endless cycle with no end insight. I can’t describe how helpless we feel at two in the morning when you’re a real child will not go to sleep because he feels like his whole world is ending because the one toy he needs to sleep with or to help them get to sleep and it’s like he’s just on a constant repeat trying to figure out why this happened. Meanwhile in the next room he has a little sister who was actually at home the day before with a bad cold who desperately needs to sleep so she gets better. Nothing we could say could fix this. Stores are not open so what are we supposed to do in the middle of the night?
So I had his Daddy go back to bed because he has to work in the morning and for the next hour, I tried to soothe Johnny and call him down. I was hoping that he’d realize that maybe this is the best we can do is just have the lights on right now but at least he is not in the dark. I then had to go check on my daughter who was awake with all the commotion and I told her everything was OK but his favourite night light is malfunctioning.
But the story doesn’t end there. I decided that after school I would try to get another one as back up because we’ve had sleep challenges in the past with Johnny and sleep becomes a commodity in our house. It is something we treasure more than anything and what ever works we will cling to just so we can get a good nights sleep. I hate feeling so tired from lack of sleep and I know my husband absolutely was just beyond it after all these years so even though it’s expensive decided to go let’s pick out another one and have it. Johnny decided that he would give his old turtle to his little sister so that she could enjoy the night light part of it.
That was until my husband figured out that it was just that you have to push the buttons a lot harder now and then the music plays. Now we were on part three of a meltdown because Johnny does not want us to return the new turtle even though we got his precious one to work. I am not sure if he is just clinging to the idea that he wants something to work and that he has to have the safety of knowing that he has something you can depend on but because of the price I can’t keep both. I feel like I’ve made a mistake because we’re desperate for sleep so I went and got a new turtle just in case. I thought the other one was broken but instead things just escalated into a big meltdown because he just wanted both. He even problem solved by telling me to keep the new one and hide it in the closet just in case.
What did we learn? I think one of the challenges is trying to balance making sure there’s reinforcers or soothing toys that help Johnny when he’s dealing with a big challenges. At the same time we also have to balance it with the notion that “sometimes life gives us challenges and it’s how we get through these challenges is a lesson.” I don’t want him to be upset but at the same time life will give us lemon sometimes and we can either make lemonade as the old saying goes or we can complain about how sour they are. I said to my husband it’s our job as parents is to try to help him through these hard situations as he gets older but wow is it take a toll on us as parents when this happens. Then I look at Johnny’s face and he looks like he’s been through something really big as well. Some days are just plain hard.
Cloud B Tranquil Turtle Ocean and Light Sounds