My "roommate" is afraid of the dark

When I was young, I had a lot of fears: the dark, ghosts, vampires, that I might be a vampire and not know it, my baby-sitter's basement, spiders, horses, big dogs, little dogs and spies. (Yep — spies. My older sister told me they wore dark cloaks and peeked in the window at you while you're sleeping.) Those fears kept me awake many, many nights.

That's why I was happy the first time I saw my daughter, then about age 1½, walk into a dark room without missing a step. She didn't look apprehensively at her destination from the safety of a lit room. She didn't run into the room with all the speed she could muster, grab her stuffed Tigger and then dart back out. She walked in with confidence, grabbed her toy, looked back at me and grinned.

In that moment, I thought with pride, "Hey, she's not afraid." Now, a little more than two years later, I realize I should've added the word "yet."

Once she transitioned from a crib to a toddler bed, my husband and I moved her into her own room. Most nights, she'd wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room. At first, she walked, but as she became more afraid, she made the trip as fast as she could.

I know what we should've done. We should've gotten up, took her hand, walked her back to her room, put her back in her own bed and reassured her that everything was fine, there were no monsters under the bed, ghosts in the corners or any other things that go bump in the night. People like me, though, opt for what's easiest at 3 o'clock in the morning. I just put her in bed with us.

But toddlers don't sleep like adults. They move. They can start out with their head at the top of the bed and do two or three 360s before the sun comes up. And as she got bigger, that cut into how well my husband and I slept.

In hopes of getting her to stay in her own bed all night, I began camping out on the futon in her room. "A sleepover," she'd call it. The plan was that I could more easily get her back to sleep in her own bed and with the least disruption for all members of the household if I were in the room with her.

And it worked. When she wakes up afraid, I can usually get her — and me — back to sleep fairly quickly. The problem is that she still wakes up EVERY night, and I worry she'll be even more afraid if she expects me to be in her room and I'm not.

So, three months later, this has become the norm for us, even for my husband. On the rare occasion when I do make it back to my own room, I find he has edged himself more to the middle of the bed, overtaking my side a little. A few more months of this, and I fear I won't have a side left.

I know I should just say, "enough," sleep in my own bed and each night deal with her fears as they hit. It's tough, though, remembering how afraid I was as a child. Any ideas on the best way to deal with her fears?

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