Saturday, August 6, 2011


Shhh, now.



through this new life, or at least this Shift, this New Thing that is

my child happy at night.

Imagine me

carefully moving through the day

Wondering if it's too soon for cartwheels and fireworks and the marching band?


Two nights
so far,

a girl going to sleep happy. Without tears. Waking. Smiling. Giving hugs throughout the day and


just how happy she is.

Imagine: the joy

slowly creeping in, where once seemed all dark.

What could possibly have changed?


I think it began three nights ago, with us being as close to breaking point as I thought we could be.


actually I think it was me being close to breaking point. After 6 months of loving and talking and supporting and sharing sleeping space and trying this and this, and that and that, it felt like things were getting worse with my girl's sleeping and her fears, not better.

It felt,
quite suddenly, in one single hard moment,
like things would never ever, no way no how, ever be better again.

It felt a lot like despair.

So what did I do?

(and could it really have been this simple?)

I talked about how I felt.

After that bottomless night, three days ago,

I laid myself bare.

I said all the things I felt, 
to my boy and my girl. 

I said everything—I didn't hold back. I talked about my limits and my wants. Said how close I was to breaking, with the months of giving so much time/sleep/space, to make the nights easier. I said, It isn't working, what we're doing. And there is only so much I can do and give. 

I need your help, I said. I need you to help me make these nights happy again. That's all I want! I said. For the nights to be happy.

I talked openly to my children, as I would a partner or a friend. I talked and

… they listened.

And they talked, too,

while I listened.

(And it was a fluid thing,
this talking, back and forth, to each other.

It was actually like watching

creekwater tumble over rocks,

sliding, winking, drops interweaving 'til you didn't know where one began and the other ended…)

My girl told us of the things she was afraid of. She talked through tears some of the time.

And my boy said,

he used to be afraid too.

Oh really? My girl turned, then. Looked intently at her brother.

And they began to talk,

to each other.

What was he afraid of?

What did he do to not be afraid?

He told her. Not of his most private fears, but of how hard it was sometimes. And of the things we and he did to get him through and past his nightworries.

He suggested things. He said, I did this; it really worked! You might like that too.

Now, suddenly, 
we were a team. 

A fear fighting team.

Together, we brainstormed. We made new plans. My girl said what she thought could work. We got excited.

There was so much love in the room right then.

We could have reached out… and if we touched it? 

It would have been soft, alive.

That night,

the dark came,

but my girl was buzzing. Happy and nervous both—thinking,


was the beginning

(rather than the End of the World).

There was her room, cosy, her very own space. It had patiently been waiting for her to come back for months.

There was the planned nightlight, the toys to cuddle, a lamp which she could turn on at any time. Any time, no matter what time it was. A book to read whenever she wanted. There was a clock, so she could see what time it was. There was peaceful music, playing. (Things we'd tried already, in our room, but without my son's sweet blessing)

Here in her own space, in the space she'd chosen to go to, were the things she wanted,
in place. 

But more than this:

Here was her choice. Her choice to reclaim her happiness, and give happiness back. To take control. To decide how her future could work. To think and breathe and live! outside her fears.

And more than this:

Here we were and would be, her mum and dad, nearby and always. Listening, believing in, and loving her. Who were honest and open, and who she could be honest and open with in return.

But more than this:

Here was her brother, just next door. A brother who loved her and took care of her (as much as he drives her crazy sometimes!). Someone who made her feel less alone and less afraid. Her hero.

And more than this:

Here was goodness. She could feel it. The possibility of a future that didn't leave her weeping. 

And in that moment? In that dark?

Here was

light, rising.

It's rising still. 

She has slept, in her own space, for two nights, without fear! She has been so happy and proud.

I keep getting hugs. She says things like, Did you have a good night, Mum? Did you have time to talk to Dad? Did you get lots of sleep? 

And she has said, I'm so glad I went to my own room, Mum! I haven't been sad or scared at all! I feel like I left all my worries behind in the other room. 

(And I've actually often thought our big room brewed worries, dark worry sprites, all gambolling about and grinning on the bed. I might have us move out too, to the little room next door.)

Last night she was singing as she got ready for bed. At the top of her lungs. It was so lovely to hear. 

And the next morning? I came in to say hello and curled up in her bed for morning cuddles. What a smile she gave me. And kisses on cheeks and nose. It made my heart creak and spill open right there and then.

linking with Owlet for her lovely unschool Monday…


  1. Oh so happy to hear things are going well at night! What a relief! And what a wonderful "solution" to the problem. Sometimes, as parents, we forget to factor ourselves into the equations because we're so busy being parents. :) But our kids can surprise us with their understanding and willingness to help out! I'm so very happy to hear that your girl is sleeping well and feeling safe and loved - and that you're getting the time and space you need. Yay!

  2. Do you know how amazing your family is? I love them and you so much. I love your boy, his kindness and compassion, his love and concern for his sister. And your girl is so brave. I love how she is trusting in her big brother. I am so glad the last 2 nights have been so good, and if they get bad occasionally, that's ok. We ALL have bad nights sometimes. This post is so full of love and positive energy it is just bursting out all around!

    Give your boy and girl huge hugs from Alabama. So happy for you all.

  3. Yay! I'm so happy to hear this happy turn of the events. Sometimes it's just a simple, intangible change that totally redirects things. It was a great idea for you to talk it out, all together. I forget about this solution alot, staying in my own head and worrying in circles instead. Good job mama, you opened the door for your boy and girl to choose their own change. So happy for your family and especially your girl. I felt like I could see her big smile, shining through your words.

  4. Helen, the reach and depth then rise and illumination of this poem is breathtaking. I found myself crying throughout, but for different reasons from line to line.

    Let's chat soon. I would love to hear your voice, to catch up, and to discuss the night fears. Our family is going through something similar.

    Until then, hugs and smooches, and as you say, great gobs of love,


  5. Wonderful! You are a good mama.

  6. I have a big, big smile right about now. Pretty cool that you could admit to your kids (and us) you were at breaking point. Pretty cool that your boy was able to help your girl. Pretty girl that in the end, your girl was able to help herself.

    Very cool. Big smiles.

  7. Just popping by hoping your nighttimes have still been lovely.

  8. Oh, how wonderful!

    FYI, I pimped your blog at the BlogHer conference. Met an Aussie and told her I already had a love affair with an Australian...

  9. Oh, I'm so, so, so glad!!

    There have been so many moments of angst that I've been lost in... and then I remember... wait. Just ask!
    I hadn't imagined that it would be helpful here, but how wonderful that her brother's empathy and your own angst about it helped her to surmount her troubles.

    Just wonderful.

    I'm so happy for the healing that is going on for all of you!

  10. So beautiful, Helena. Yes, I understand just what you have been through, especially your girl. For I had many night fears too. It helps me understand my girl and all her fears also. I also understand the growing excitement at realizing they really have worked through them. Such a brilliant transformation and so wonderful that it was sparked by your honesty and letting you know you are human too. xx

  11. I loved reading this. Putting my 3yo to bed at night has just become so easy - but just six months or so ago it was still incredibly hard. I loved reading about how your son helped his sister :) When siblings connect. It's one of the things I'm looking forward to...

  12. Once again your words have entered my mind & shot through my body, straight to my heart. This story inspires me, as do so many of your stories.

  13. Oh, Helena! I am so happy to hear this - I hope all continues to be well. How wonderful to see that sibling connection, a friendship that will continue forever.


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.