Chasing the Monster-Under-the-Bed

It’s payback time, and Mom and Dad are on the receiving end.
My six-year-old was, at one time, a great sleeper. He began sleeping through the night at 11 weeks, just in time for Mom to go back to work after maternity leave (Thank You!). He would sleep like a rock, hardly ever getting up for that obligatory glass of water, or trip to the bathroom like my younger daughter does a couple of times every night, between 8 and 10 pm. Nope, my son was a born sleeper, or so I thought.

Shortly after turning six, we suddenly had to contend with the typical bedtime torture that many parents face when their children are toddlers, or preschoolers: the dreaded “Monster-Under-The-Bed”!

My Monster
This guy is afraid of monsters?

We are not completely sure what triggered this new phobia of his, though I believe it is probably a perfect storm of change that he has experienced in the past few months.

Over the summer my son learned that “Papa”, his great-grandfather would be leaving our house (which was really Papa’s house for the last 50 years) to move in with his daughter, my mother-in-law. My son still sees him nearly every day; my mother-in-law picks him up at the school bus each afternoon. On the plus side: this life-change allowed us to give our son his own bedroom, but it was also an acute reminder that Papa will not be here forever. I think it weighs heavily on him.

He also started First Grade. If you think this is not a big deal, think again. He went from a 2 1/2 hour school day, to a 6-hour school day. Gone is nap time altogether, no matter how tired he is. He has homework everyday, and daily reading assignments. He has a new teacher, an excellent one by the way, but she has expectations that take some adjustments for a boy who would often rather talk about Star Wars all day. On top of it all, he has to endure fire drills at school…oh the fire drills! They are so traumatic for him, they deserve their own blog.

He started Cub Scouts. He loves Cub Scouts, but it is pretty demanding for a 6-year old. Den Meetings and Pack meetings three times a month, in addition to what seems like multiple extracurricular events and activities each weekend.

In between it all, he is making loads of new friends, and having as many play dates as he can fit into his busy schedule. It’s exhausting when you think about it.

So exhausting, you would think he would lay unconscious in bed each night just has his little head crashes into the pillow. But, NO. Right around bedtime, we start hearing about “The Monsters”. He is afraid of the monsters. They arrive as soon as we turn off the lights, usually. Sometimes he goes to sleep for a while, and the monsters wake him at 2 or 3 am. At this point, he runs into our room in a panic and BEGS us to sleep in his room with him. This fear brings out the worst in him. If we resist his pleas to go into his room, he does more than beg, he DEMANDS that we stay with him. He will stand by my bed, arms crossed, and not budge until I return to his room. If I try to sneak back to my bed before he is fully asleep, he chases me down.

It’s led to several sleepless nights for Mom, Dad and little boy. We have sought out suggestions from family, friends, and the Internet.

To date, here is a list of the tricks we’ve tried, and their level of success:

  • The Anti-Monster Spray: OK, really it was vanilla air freshened in disguise. It smelled lovely in his room, and kept the monsters away for about 1/2 the night.
  • Night Light(s): First we had a standard nightlight, but that was simply not enough. Then we allowed him to keep a low-watt bedside lamp on for a while, with one of his favorite books at his side. This worked for a few nights. Finally, my husband invested in a night-light that projects an image of the solar system on his ceiling. He thinks it’s really cool, but the monsters don’t care.
  • White Noise: we’ve tried various mixes of ocean waves, jet plane engines, fans, etc. We’ve even let him play Christmas music a few nights. Like everything else, it works for a while, but not for long.
  • Incentives: We’ve offered rewards for staying in his room for consecutive nights, everything from a piece of candy, to an extra present from Santa Claus if he keeps it up. Those prizes can’t match the hold of the Monster Under the Bed.
  • Consequences: We’ve let him know that without enough sleep, we will have to start cutting back in some of the fun stuff he loves: TV, playdates, even Cub Scouts.

Last night left me bleary-eyed again, and I only hope my little boy has been able to keep one eye open during school today.

If anyone our there has other ideas that we haven’t thought of, we’re all ears.

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