When I was small, I was afraid of the dark. I was also afraid of heights, so I never jumped off the roof clutching an umbrella like my friends, pretending to be parabats.
Cable cars and ladders were also easy to avoid, but the dark was a monster of another kind. There was no stopping it.
At night, I would pull the bedspread over my head, making a little tunnel through which I could get fresh air.
Every night, it felt like an eternity before sleep finally liberated me from the dreaded demon called The Dark. In the morning, I’d wake up with half the bedding on the floor, oblivious to how and when my safe hideaway had abandoned me. But it didn’t matter, because it wasn’t dark any more.
Having been somewhat of a wimp, I have always been acutely aware of the fears – no matter how silly or irrational they might seem – that haunt some children.
Raising my own children, I would allow them to sleep with the light on and even to cuddle up with me for the night if they needed some extra comfort, especially during a storm or after a scary ordeal.
As they grew up, the memories of their fears – and my own decades ago – faded.
But I got a very unexpected reminder the other day when the baby in the house came running down the passage at three in the morning, dived onto the bed and refused to be moved until way after dawn. Fear is no laughing matter, but I couldn’t help rolling around on the floor.
You see, like all our babies, Charles was also allowed to live the first six months of his life in the security of the double bed once the sun sets. And like the other babies, he was moved to his own room, with his own little night lamp to comfort him, should he wake up during the night.
But the other night, the globe in his night lamp blew with what I suspect was quite a loud bang, judging by the black residue on the shade.
My laughing at his ordeal may sound very cruel, but I never imagined my two-year-old, 65kg ridgeback “puppy” would be so afraid of the dark.