Checking for monsters

It's 2:30 a.m., and I just performed what I call a "monster check", and can't get back to sleep for thinking. So up comes the blog.

"Monster check" is one of those expressions that is my way of pigeonholing the fears that go with parenting a child with diabetes. It's a BG test that you make when you wake in the middle of the night and go test your child for no other reason than that you can't stop thinking of their last low (or high) and obsess about whether you'll find them in an atrocious state of hypo (or -er) glycemia were you to get out of bed and test. Various scenarios involving BGs of 30 (or 300+) play in your mind until you have no option but to get up and do a finger stick on the child in question. You're not really checking him out of any rational reasoning; it's a way of quelling fear, pure and simple.

I am blessed in Eric's ability to sleep through anything. If I sit down on his bed and start prepping the meter for a test, he doesn't wake up. Or, rather, he wakes up just enough to hold up his index finger so I can stick it and draw a drop of blood, and once I let go of his hand, he's back in la-la land. Is that a good sleeper or what?

But he's an easy-going child all the way around. Not much troubles him, and he has few anxieties that aren't, well, assumed in order to achieve a goal, usually a goal of getting out of an onerous task. "I'm scared," when Eric says it, most often doesn't really mean he's scared (you can usually tell the rare times he is truly afraid), but rather that he's got something else he would rather be doing than dealing with the thing he's confronting.

My older son, Nate, who shares a bedroom with Eric, is not so lucky in his mentality. He's like me: light sleeper who, wakened in the night, is prone to telling himself scary stories that disturb his inner harmony and make it tough to get back to sleep. Since he is too young to go online and blog it out (!), he often just comes downstairs and wakes me up, which is not my favorite way of coping. So I've tried, recently, to help him work through his fears.

"What are you afraid of, Nate?" I asked him on a recent evening when he asked, as he often does, if I would please lie down in Eric's bed and stay for a while till he (Nate) was asleep so he wouldn't be scared. Background: Eric is still small enough that I can snuggle with him on his twin bed if occasion, or blood sugar-checking needs, warrant it, and I often do so while reading bedtime stories... and have been known, on particularly long days, to fall asleep there. It's not terribly comfortable for me, but apparently the boys think having Mom in the room all night is reassuring. Or rather, Nate does, and Eric says he does because he likes cuddling things while he sleeps (he keeps no less than four different pillows in his bed for this purpose).

Nate's response to my question was simple: "Monsters." Eric, with evident and surprising sincerity, nodded in agreement.

Now, I've told the children there's no such thing as monsters — not the kind they're scared of, at any rate. It's one thing to promote belief in, say, Santa (Nate is in the age of skepticism; Eric, not yet), but why would you want your children to hold onto myths that frighten them rather than make them happy? But some myths are born of primal experience. It is scary in the dark, scary to not be able to use your primary sense (if you're a visual person; personally, having been severely myopic since the 4th grade, I'm not, so dark doesn't trouble me much). Nate, especially, IS a visual person, and as easygoing and confident a child as Eric is, he feeds off his older brother, so if Nate is afraid of the dark, then Eric is too. And Nate, of late, has rationalized his fear of the dark as a fear of monsters hiding within the dark, and no amount of calm mythbusting will convince him that monsters don't exist. Mom wouldn't lie to him about potential safety issues, he does accept that... but she's been known to be wrong before.

Thus was born the monster check, a ritual at bedtime wherein I turn off the lights, turn on the nightlight, and stand at the doorway while each boy goes into the darkest corners of the bedroom to examine it for the presence of monsters. (I am not sure why, if they fear monsters so much, it hasn't occurred to them that they should make me check, rather than them, so I can fend off whatever snaggle-toothed beast might be lurking. But I don't think I'll point that out.)

As of tonight, they check under beds as well; I was inspired today during clean-our-room time to inform them that shoving clothes and toys under beds made it ideal monster habitat, and thus one should make sure to regularly clean one's room and especially clean under the bed to prevent infestation. (I figure, if I'm going to buy into the Monsters, Inc. scenario, I don't see why I shouldn't get some benefit from it!) The night-time check is just prophylaxis to ensure that any would-be residents haven't put any clothing or toys or stuff like that under there as camouflage or nesting materials.

Once the monster check is performed, anxieties disappear like magic. No monster, no problem: sleep is instant for Eric, while Nate usually needs a few minutes of small talk, usually a Q&A of about 5 minutes, to settle himself (tonight's query, "Why did God make us mammals instead of fish?" was kind of a stumper. The only answer I had for it was "I really don't know. Ask Grandma when you see her.")

I envy them, actually. The monster check they do each night is enough to quell their fears and send them into peaceful sleep. The monster that lives under MY bed, though... it doesn't go away so easily. It's going to be there for all of Eric's life, or until he's cured, if that blessed day ever comes. Poking Eric's finger in the wee hours of the night quells it temporarily, but doesn't send it away.

It's now 3:34 a.m. and I'm feeling like maybe I'm tired enough to sleep again. No pithy final words here, not tonight. Buenas noches.

my mother used to sleep with me so she could feel if i trembled because of low bg
t1 77 + years
i am now 80 + years old
hugs to you all

Elizabeth, I really enjoy your writing. very clever of you to say the monsters would like to use clothes and things stuffed under the bed to hide in.

I also enjoy your pictures. Eric certainly is getting big!

Enjoyed your post so much!

This is one of the best blogs I have read in some time. Thank you so much for writing. What parent of any child, diabetic or not, has not done monster check. i knwo my monster checks were sometimes with a glucose test. I doubt they remember but I ran mine during the day, if i could not sleep the night before.

My sons are not diabetic, and so far my grandchildren are not. But one of their moms brought my youngest grandson over recently and we had a monster check. See even parents of non diabetics have monster checks sometimes.

Thanks everyone!

Wow, Shoshana. It's kind of mindblowing to think of how it must have been for your mother. I spent something like the first 3 years post Dx sleeping in Eric's bed with him for exactly the same reason — he would sweat and shiver if he was crashing, and I would waken and catch it. Of course, he was a lot smaller then! I finally got to sleeping in my own bed again when we got the CGM when Eric was 3 1/2. We no longer use it (he developed an allergy to the lead, and I developed an allergy to the expense) but his BGs are a lot more stable now anyway because the CGM gave us so much information about his overnight patterns.