How Night Terrors Forced My Family To Unplug

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You never forget the moment where you wake up to your child screaming. The bleary-eyed rushing to their room only to find them awake but not awake. The early night terrors Wyatt experienced were full of him:

  • Tracking objects, with his eyes, that were not there… but if you watched him, you’d think there was something.
  • Shivering, teeth chattering to the point you’d think that they might break.
  • Pure terror.

Night terrors make a parent feel helpless as it is hard to convince someone, who isn’t awake, that there is nothing trying to kill them.

Tabitha and I started to notice a pattern though. Looking at our bedtime routine, we were watching TV, specifically playing videogames, up until the point Wyatt went to bed. So we re-evaluated our evening routine and turned off the television. 

For me, being the dad who loves sharing gaming with his kid, this killed me. KILLED ME! The effort it takes to read a book aloud or play a boardgame is far more than turning on the TV and playing a game. Call this being a lazy dad at the time, I admit it now. But our evenings changed for the better. The night terrors, which seem to be caused by a combination of electronic stimuli and tiredness, slowly faded away. Over the years, with each book we read aloud, each boardgame we played, we slowly learned to interact more as a family in the evenings.

Today, I can’t say everything is perfect. The night terrors like to rear their heads on the occasion (but are more infrequent). We still watch TV shows before bed, but we have learned that certain TV shows don’t seem to trigger the night terrors as much as others (I think it has something to do with the amount of blinking lights). Our family reading time has segued into Wyatt having his own reading time at night.

My Little Scythe

Smart parenting often requires sacrifice. In our case, that has meant moving any gaming time away from bedtime (we’ve noticed that an hour buffer works). I’ve learned that I can still game with my son but that often it is good to shake things up with no screens. The battlefield of the Chess board, the trophies of My Little Scythe, all work together to make non-screen memories and keep the night terrors at bay.

Making Room

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We often treat our children as if they are invaders in our home. Pillagers of our everyday items (free kitchen cabinet content removal) and destroyers of all that is good (throwing ALL media off shelves onto the floor). I don’t think much about it now, but Tabitha and I fought against the invader mentality. Instead, we invited our son into our spaces.

The Cabinet Battle

When Wyatt was little, he liked opening the kitchen cabinets and throwing the cabinet contents out onto the floor. Typical little kid stuff. Tupperware, pots and pans, you name it, all over the floor to trip on. Our Solution: Tabitha gave Wyatt his own kitchen cabinet. A place where we could intentionally put just a few things for him to pull out. This created a boundary we could enforce, as all the other kitchen cabinets were off limits. A small mental shift that made our lives much easier in those early years.

Bottom Line: Invite your children into the kitchen, let them play in their cabinet while you cook.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Welcome to the Living Room

Most kids have all of their toys in their bedrooms. As Wyatt grew older, we set up all of his toys in a corner of our living room. At this stage, he liked to be near us while he played. With his toys in the living room, he would:
  • Walk over and play with us for a moment. I could easily eat some plastic cheese and then he would move on.
  • Grab us to come play cars on his large car mat.
This set up allowed his bedroom to solely become his sleep room. With his toys in the living room, we could watch, play, and still go about our business. A win for him and us!
Bottom Line: This one might drive some of you nuts… having your children’s stuff out in the open. Trust me though, with the toys out you play more. Who cares if you have guests over and they realize that you have children (This one was hard on me. Thankful for my sweet wife for helping me through this.).
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

They Grow Up

Over the weekend, we created a new space for Wyatt. A place where he can hang out when friends come over. Tab and I took half of our mud room and :
  • Put some carpet square samples from work down to define his space. We’ve found that the carpet squares work great as area rugs with a little Gorilla Tape holding them together.
  • Bought some bean bag chairs.
  • And put a TV/DVD player for gaming and movies. (I will note that nothing is connected to the internet in his space. All about smart parenting, people.)

Make Room

I watch other parents fight the kitchen cabinet battles; I watch some of them act as if they can erase any trace of having children in their home (I hate homes that feel like museums… another blog post though.). I can tell you that there is an easier way to fight the “invader”, include them in your spaces. Make room for your children.

Build That Wall

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The rental house next door was visited by a tree service this week. The tree service did their job… almost too well. Now I can see the neighboring house and have a direct view of their back porch. Which means summer time swimming will now include waving at the neighbors from the pool and zero privacy. I’m thinking of building a wall. A fence that will help restore privacy to my backyard.

When I step out my back door, this is what I see now (all used to be hidden).

Bushes and trees, gone.