Woody and Me: To Infinity and Beyond

I’ve been doing this parenting gig long enough to know that this is a phase. A chapter, a stage, a season of life; call it what you will, someday I’ll sleep again.

Sadly, that “someday” of sleep is not today because I have a five-year-old going through an ambitious night terror phase. This kid is driven, I tell you. He put on his three-piece suit, grabbed his briefcase, and accepted an executive position at a top Night Terrors Firm. His corner office view is amazing.

If you’re unfamiliar with, but anxious to experience (’cause, GEE!, who wouldn’t be?), Parenting during Night Terrors, I highly recommend you head to whatever watering hole is popular with your local poltergeists and invite one over for a visit. From the intermittent shrieks and unpredictable moans to the creeeeaaaaakkk of the floor boards as the affected child flies into my room after hours, helping my kid manage night terrors is, as far as I can tell, identical to being haunted. Well, other than the fact that it’s hard to bundle a specter onto my lap and say, “Hush, baby. Sh. Sh. Sh. Ssssshhhhhh. Mama’s here.” It’s close, though. Almost exactly the same.

Last week, after several fun sleepovers with my preschooler, from his bed to mine, from my floor to his, I gave up. I threw some foam pads and my cushiest blankets down on his floor, crawled into my new floorbed, and called it a night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I called it a night there the next night. And then I… you can see where this is headed. I have a new bedroom, and it’s not very comfy.

I know, I know – we’re supposed to teach our kids to sleep. But that’s just the trouble with night terrors; the kids are asleep the whole, entire, banshee-screeching time, but the mama’s not asleep, and that will never do. (And also, this mama’s insides are shredded into teeny, tiny bits listening to my baby make those scared sounds. And also-also, I’m a sucker. But whatever.)

In short, I’m sleeping now, but I miss my husband. And, when I say “miss my husband,” I mean that I miss my husband. In specific ways. I miss-him miss him. Missity miss. Missity miss miss miss.

Sorry.

I miss him.

The other night, as I crawled into my makeshift floorbed, miss missing my husband, I slammed my knee right into a hard, plastic, pokey… something. For obvious reasons (you know, like the fact that it was dark, and there was a kid right next to me with night terrors, and I was using all of my energy to keep the choice words inside my head), I didn’t take pictures at that exact moment. I recreated these for your viewing pleasure.

This is the something…

…on which I impaled myself.

You guys, you know that soft bendy spot right under your kneecap? The part that people who actually remember the stuff they learned in human anatomy class (and don’t have to Google “knee anatomy images”) might call the area above the lateral meniscus?

Yeah. That part. That’s exactly where Woody buried his steal-toed boots, knocking me flat into my floorbed with an oomph, a barely-muffled “OW!” and a desire to drop-kick my noctural plastic visitor to infinity and beyond.

I pulled that farfignoogin’ toy out of my knee, and, by the light of my phone,…

…I saw that I’d hopped in bed with Woody. Coming face to face with this little floorbed-sharer cracked me up, y’all, ’til the tears of exhaustion laughter ran down my face.

Well, Woody was as devastated by my laughter as he was offended, so now I have to apologize. Here goes nothin’:

I’m sorry, Woody. It’s not you. It’s me.

See, you have the right idea.

You’re just the Wrong Dude.

Well, I’m off, guys. Off to another evening at the Night Terror Races.

Wish me luck. This whole parenting thing? It really is to infinity and beyond!

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
22 comments
  1. Yikes! Sorry to hear you’re not sleeping and I’m glad you can still laugh about it. We never experienced night terrors with either of our kids. Looks like you’ve got some great tips from the other comments. I definitely agree with looking at what may be causing stress or anxiety for your child. Some experts like the late Carl Jung said dreams are our mind’s way of dealing with stuff – and they are not rational or anything – they just help us process things we’re going through. Kids can have a hard time expressing or even understanding what they are feeling when they’re awake, so their subconscious mind takes over at night and tries to figure it out. Keep us posted on how it goes 🙂 Wishing you good sleep and hubby time very soon! Hopefully like tonight!

  2. Ok, super busy at work, but I had to throw in a couple thoughts:

    (Basically, just bare veggies this morning. No cheese sauce or butter.)

    I experienced night terrors/waking dreams as a kid, mostly result of stress from abuse and life.
    I experience them still during times of high stress.
    Marc (13 yo) experiences them as well, has since he was 3 and we were finally able to move him permanently into his own bed. There have been times that I was so attuned (on edge) to his terrors that I would often be at his bedside and fully awake within the first couple whimpers. Yes, in that order.
    Advice I have compiled from experience, therapists and others:
    During the terrors:
    1. Don’t attempt to wake them.
    2. Talk soothingly, repeating their name, where they are, who you are and the fact they are safe, often.
    3. Guide, don’t push. (Marc tends to sleepwalk during these as well. Fun times!)

    Things we have done to combat the terrors:
    1. Give them control. Webb was absolutely correct. They are the boss of their room, mind, body…when tucking them into bed, as you tuck it around their shoulders, you tell them it is their invincibility cape to protect them from the terrors.
    2. Play soft, soothing music while they are sleeping.
    3. Try to keep to a firm schedule at night. That consistency helps them deal with the inconsistent terrors.
    4. Chamomile tea. The chamomile is brain soothing and a natural sedative. We have tried melatonin as well, but melatonin increases my night terrors so I stay away from it.
    5. Look to what is causing anxiety in their life. Is he having problems at school? Those problems might be miniscule for you, and even him, but his brain could be acting out at night because of those minor anxieties.

    Ok, that’s all I can think of right now. Hope it helps!

    1. Great night terrors tips, Devi! I can tell you’re familiar with terrors vs. nightmares. Don’t attempt to wake them is spot on!

      Our nighttime routine is practically another religion around our house… oh, how we cherish the schedule and gettin’ the kiddos to bed! So he’s got the bedtime and consistency for sure. We have a comforting ocean-sound machine. I haven’t tried the tea, but I have some chamomile to give it a whirl. And the anxiety is, I think in my mama gut, a part of growing up. I’m hoping this mama’s presence will soothe him, but, if not, at least I’m soothing the mama. I’ll sleep someday, right?

  3. I solved our night terror problem a few years ago by instituting Favorite Parts of the Day. The idea was that we (the parents) would go into the night armed with a recent happy memory to remind the terrified child of; but by recollecting the best part of their day during dinner (ie the end of the day), it actually worked to _prevent_ nightmares. Bonus toast! It is crucial that the favorite part be highly specific. It’s also a nice way to ensure that everyone gets a turn to talk, which is especially useful for those of us with 5 kids… 😉

    1. Good idea, Emily! We do “best thing/worst thing” about our day at dinner time, but we can always revisit it at bedtime, too. Sometimes, we just need to shake up the order, right?

  4. Laughing, crying and laughing again. No experience with night terrors, but certainly experienced with the surprise sharp object on the floor…. – nothing like a little lego piece with bare feet, or worse yet, the knee. But the Woody is a much better story 🙂 LOL – lauging, crying….

    1. Oh, Nancy, I could NOT believe it when it was Woody. I think there were some angels messing with me. 😉

      And also, THE LEGOS! Oh my heck – I think parents should sign a waiver saying they will always wear foot-protection before they should be allowed to bring Legos into the house. Most painful thing EVER.

  5. Gabe had night terrors for a couple of months (or an eternity) when he was about a year old. Oh, how I feel for you.
    At least you got your woody, and as always, LOL’ing at The Old Marine.

  6. Starting about 4 months back, Leigh became afraid that the Childcatcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (who’s pretty darn creepy) would come into her room at night and tickle her. At other times, she was convinced the moon would come in and tickle her, that a scary clown in a book would come in and tickle her, etc. This involved screaming wake-ups at night, shredding our sleep as well.

    Melissa, a parenting genius, finally told Leigh that she’s the boss of her room, and that she can say can say, ‘Get out, Childcather, I’m the boss.’ And it worked…!

    Leigh still talks about the Childcatcher (and moon and clown, etc.) but she often follows it by saying to herself “You go away, Childcather! I’m the Boss!” So this is just a little shout out to my brilliant wife. Can’t wait to see what she thinks of when Leigh starts having the true night terrors. And, of course, we’ll consult Beth–or at least borrow her foam mattress.

  7. My son also had night terrors. I am so glad he grew out of them. The eyes open but not seeing or hearing you is what would get to me and those screams like they are in pain…awful. Praying your son grows out of them soon and that you are able to get some rest!

  8. So where the heck was the parental warning on *this* one?

    1. Oops! Sorry, Dad. I forgot to warn you. 😉

  9. My son also has night terrors. His started when he was about 2. It’s heart wrenching when they are crying and scared and you can’t do anything to help them. We have found with my son now 7, that if we make him walk to the bathroom and go potty it ends quicker. Also a consistent bedtime has always been very important for him. I pray he grows out of them soon. Good Luck to You!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! The potty trick is one we use, too, and it really does shorten the duration! I wish we’d thought of that when our oldest son was small… we could’ve had minutes and minutes more sleep. 😉

      Praying your toddlin’ boy grows out of his, too.

  10. Oh, Mama, my heart goes out to you. I had night terrors when I was a kid, grew out of them, and then they CAME BACK. They are the absolute worst. I hope this phase passes quickly and stays away forever!

    I am, however, amused that you hopped in bed with Woody. (And yes, I am giggling like a ten year old boy.)

    1. Hooray! Another 10 year old boy disguised as a full grown woman!

      Thanks for making your confession here. I swear I’ll never tell

  11. It’s Woody and I.
    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 😉 😀

    1. A grammar girl after my own heart! I’ll play grammar games with you!

      It’s not always “Woody and I.” For example, I could say, “Cael slept with Woody and me” and that would be correct because, if I remove “Woody and” the sentence remains correct. “Cael slept with me.” See?

      However, if I said, “Woody and me slept in Cael’s room” that would be incorrect because, if I remove “Woody and” then “Me slept in Cael’s room” is obviously horrible. In that case, it’s correct to use “Woody and I.”

      In the case of a title like “Woody and Me” that has a colon, it’s correct to use either “Woody and Me” or “Woody and I.” I’m about to totally grammar geek out on you as I explain why. Are you ready? ‘Cause if you stop reading, I won’t blame you at all.

      I is the first person singular subject pronoun, which means that it refers to the person performing the action of a verb. Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to which a preposition refers.

      By using a colon after Woody and Me, I’ve implied that, between Woody and me, we’re going to infinity and beyond, which is a correct usage of “me.”

      How terrified are you that this kind of discussion thrills me?

      Don’t be scared.

      Come back!

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