the just plain
My daughter isn't sleeping.
Just. Not. Sleeping.
She was up until midnight last night, weeping in my arms, so, so tired and yet completely unable to go to sleep.
This has been happening for weeks. Months, really. Nights getting later and later. My girl pacing the floor upstairs after we've said good night. Us going up. Her coming down. So many tears.
If we go to bed with her, she is all right.
If we don't, if we say good night, and go downstairs (like I've heard many parents do!),
the Worry Monsters come.
And they are BIG. They involve spider bites, mostly. Images of huge, furry spiders lurking in the corners of her sheets, waiting to pounce. Or there is a fear of appendicitis, fear of what headaches might mean, fear of hurricanes, fear of death.
And the Worry Monsters have started coming in the day too. Because when a girl routinely can't sleep, and gets insanely overtired, then they come when it's light. They come in all sorts of forms, sneak up behind her—often just as she's having the most fun—and trip her over.
Then she comes and tells me the Worry. She whispers it in my ear.
She looks at me so intently.
She says, "Will I be okay?"
I say, "Yes, sweetheart. You will be okay."
And then she says (and says always), "But how do you know?"
And I explain, and explain again,
Because these Worry Monsters are tenacious. They stick. They are like burrs, frustrating, overwhelming, prickly, stickly things. Burrs that simply will not leave.
And as I'm reassuring her, and looking up 'anxiety' online, and planning ways to help (lavender baths, meditation tapes, warm milk, appointment with a naturopath, possibly a psychologist?), I am being
pricked and sticked
by Worry Monsters too.
This is why.
We began homeschooling my girl because she was incredibly anxious and unhappy at school. It has gone so well. Homeschooling has provided her with days of intense happiness, time to do the things she loves, and a growing realisation of who she is as a person, and the pride and confidence that comes with that.
But she is growing incredibly anxious again, and after nights like last night,
I think, Oh. Did I make a terrible mistake?
By removing her from school, did I stop her from finding her own feet, facing her anxieties head-on, becoming that word: "Resilient"? Did I create a warm space for the Worry Monsters to breed? Should I have been the mama the school wanted me to be—the one who could (or feels forced to) leave a crying child at the school gates, trust that strangers would take care of her, trust that she would be "fine" and walk away?
The thing is, I know logically that none of these things are true.
I didn't make a mistake.
And I could not be, and never will be, that mama.
But I worry. I hold myself responsible. It's as though I take all the tough, the hurt, the hard that my children face and say, "Ah. My fault." Or I think, "Homeschool. It's because I strayed away from the Path More Taken."
I fret and blame the one thing that has consistently brought my child joy. I fret and think, If I were tougher, and had more rules, and Consequences, and didn't cuddle, and listen, and talk things through… if I was more Seperate… would she rise to the challenges herself and become stronger?
In other words, if I was the opposite to who I am, perhaps my child would thrive.
See how these Worry Monsters work? They take what is real, and true, and good, and bend it until you can't recognise it any more. They launch imaginary spiders at you and make you believe you are in danger, that you've made a mistake, that what is real and true and good is not actually there at all.
They aren't nice. They shouldn't be allowed to come over to play. They don't play fair and they don't play kind, and I'd like very much for them to leave.
I tried to be firm last night. I got cross, and I sent her to sleep in a different room than ours. I said there would be Consequences. I left her to the dark and to her tears because I thought, The other way doesn't work!
But the firm way didn't work either. I felt just terrible. And I wasn't true to myself at all.
She ended up downstairs again, despite all the Consequences that had been threatened. She was simply, and absolutely, unable to sleep. Simply and absolutely, in that moment, ruled by the Monsters. My poor, poor girl.
She ended up in my lap, wrapped up in my husband's big plaid jacket, weeping in my arms. She ended up drinking warm milk and honey in my arms. She ended up pouring out her fears and her feelings. She ended up coming to bed with us, back in our bed, my hand on her back. She ended up sleeping.
I don't have answers. I just see there is another journey to take.
And I am not going to leave my child to it. Leave her weeping at the gate. I am going to take a
And face the Worry Monsters with her. Hand in small, dear hand.