Eirinn sleeps with a stuffed cat, a knitted bunny, her snuggie blanket she’s had since she was born, and a pink unicorn pillow pet. Her pillow pet must sleep to her left, the cat sleeps on the left shoulder of the unicorn, the bunny on its right, snuggie blanket across the top of it all, horizontally. All of this, including Eirinn, head and all, is tucked beneath her sheet and quilt. A place for everything and everything in its place. If any one piece of the puzzle is off even by an inch, it’s all wrong and Eirinn won’t settle until it’s right.
That’s fine. If there’s one thing I can understand, it’s being particular about things. The problem doesn’t lay in the routine, but in the disruption in the routine. See, Eirinn doesn’t settle immediately at night. Avery is down and out. Once she gets her kiss and hug, a “bye and I love you,” she’s out of sight until morning. But Eirinn won’t give in that easily. She needs her music. For years it was the Jersey Boys soundtrack, but for the last few months it’s been Rio. “Wanna take you to Rio, Rio. Fly over the ocean like an eagle, eagle.” She needs her nightlight. She needs a hug and a kiss, too, but she also gets nightmares, or bad thinkings, as we’ve come to call them because they generally occur before she’s technically asleep. And so, with her hug and kiss, she needs help with good thoughts to combat the bad thinkings. Nightly we play bedtime Coffee Talk (Cawfee Tawk) and I give her a few good things to think about. Our theory is that if she’s busy thinking about good things, she won’t have room in her mind to think about bad things. Usually I list everyone who loves her, talk about a special upcoming event, or remind her of some of her favourite memories. Lately all I’ve had to say is “think about Christmas” and she’s content, thinking about the ten million things she’s asked for from Santa.
But sometimes these good things don’t work and her bad thinkings scare her out of bed. She sometimes forgets, or she hears an unusual noise, or her bad thinkings are just too strong for the good thoughts I gave for her to think about. Rare is the day that she doesn’t get out of bed at least once. We’re working on
twice thrice so far tonight. Each waking would be far less painful if she didn’t insist on dragging her entire menagerie with her down the stairs. Then I have to figure out what’s wrong, take her back upstairs and reassemble the very specific and very time consuming arrangement of stuffed things, hug, kiss, good things.
While this is all so very frustrating, I understand what it feels like to have nightmares. I suffered with chronic nightmares throughout my childhood and I, too, had to have everything exactly right or else I’d wake up terrified. Some nightmares were so terrifying, I still remember them in vivid detail; some from when I was as young as 6 or 7. With me it was more about body position. I HAD to sleep on my stomach. I HAD to have my head turned toward the door. I HAD to have the blankets over my head. I HAD to have a light source, if only a hall light peeking under my door. I HAD to have my door LOCKED. And, you know what? In all honesty, besides the locked door, I still have to have all of these things in place or I’ll have a nightmare. I can tell, within my dream, the moment my physical body rolls to my back. It’s at that point in my dream that it turns dark, that the villain appears, that something terrible happens. So I know where Eirinn is coming from. Everything has to be exactly right or night time can be very, very unpleasant.
I don’t do a very good job at hiding my frustration. When I see her come down the stairs, dragging her blanket, arms filled with plush, I can’t help but moan in annoyance “Eiriiiinn…” As we walk back up the stairs, I mutter “why don’t you just leave your stuff upstairs?” As I tuck her back in, I hiss “you need to stay in bed and go to sleep.” I kiss her and hug her little tucked-in head and whisper “you’ll be alright. I love you.” And she will be. Night time can be scary when your mind plays mean, cruel tricks against you; showing you dreadful things, speaking to you in voices that frighten and unnerve. The only way to get through it, sometimes, is for everything else to be exactly the way it is supposed to be. A place for everything and everything in its place.
Even if that means driving your mommy bananas in the process.