Night Terrors

Posted on | October 6, 2011 | 26 Comments

Someone screamed in my house last night.

For the life of me I don’t know if it was me or J, but one of us let loose a blood curdling scream sometime in the wee hours of the morning. In my half-asleep state I did little more than snuggle my son and fall back asleep so I can’t be sure what happened, who screamed, or even if my brother heard any of it.

When we woke up this morning, I tried to ask my son about it, but he’s two, so my answer sort of sounded like it came right out of I Love You Stinky Face (by Lisa McCourt), complete with a big dinosaur eating hamburgers.  This lead me down the road of about fifty million different fears, finally settling on what has always been my biggest concern.

My son is still not old enough to really tell me if someone hurts him.

Yes, when he came home with bite marks on his arm, he willingly informed me which little boy turned Edward Cullen on him during play time, but that’s because he KNOWS that little boy.  What would he do if someone he doesn’t know hurts him?

I don’t know.

I am not sure when is too soon to start trying to explain things to my son about what is and is not appropriate touching.  I don’t know when I’m supposed to start detailing what is private and what is public.  I am scared that if I don’t teach him how to protect himself and how and when to tell someone “No” that someone will take advantage of my child’s sweet and trusting nature.  But on the other hand, I’m scared that by telling him too much, I will somehow wound his sweet and trusting nature.  I don’t want J to grow up afraid of his own shadow.  I don’t want him to peer around corners and under beds.  I want him to live a happy and normal life without worrying that someone is always out to get him.

But this is the world we live in.  A ten month old girl was taken from her crib in Missouri.  Children are kidnapped, assaulted, molested and wounded every day… and, like every one else, I don’t want that for my child.  So how do you walk  the fine line between stressing the importance of being safe and encouraging the freedom of feeling safe?

I just don’t know.  I’m open for suggestions.

All I know is that someone screamed in my house last night… and for one of the first times in my life, I prayed it was me.


26 Responses to “Night Terrors”

  1. Samantha
    October 6th, 2011 @ 8:57 am

    The same thing has been a constant on my mind lately. Started more when we started sending R to a daycare 2 days a week.

    I tried to ask her a couple nights ago if anyone had hurt her or touched her private area, but she kept going on another subject. It is hard when they are so little. She’s 2, as well.

  2. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    I know! I don’t want to plant ideas in his head, but I also don’t want to miss anything. It’s a tough road.

  3. Tracy
    October 6th, 2011 @ 9:08 am

    Regarding the scream; one night, many years ago now, I was awakened to the same noise. At that time, I lived alone with my cat, who was on the bed beside me. We both leaped a mile and shot out of bed to where we thought the noise was coming from. After several heart racing minutes later and no more noise, I got back in bed.

    Next morning I went outside to where the noise had come from, and the vent on the house looked like it had been partially pulled out (but the screws prevented it from coming out completely). Someone later that day told me that scared or irritated raccoons can sound like screaming children, so I’m guessing that’s what it was.

    I know that wasn’t really the point of your post 🙂 but I thought I’d mention it.

  4. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    Yeah, you know I thought about that! Or a fox, which also sounds like a child screaming.

  5. MaconMom
    October 6th, 2011 @ 9:14 am

    I worked in the prevention of child abuse, foster care, adoptions, and attended fatality review board trainings for years, and I am overly (I can admit it) fearful!

    My plan is to keep it simple. Most folks start around 2-3. I’ll explain that nobody can touch his penis or his bottom, and he can’t touch anyone else’s privates. Mommy, Daddy, Nana, etc. can help him wash his privates in the bath, but that’s all. And if anyone ever tries, he needs to tell mommy, etc. right away. I will also explain to him that sometimes when he goes to the Dr., they may have to look at his privates, but that mommy/daddy will always be right there with him.

    I’ll also talk about physical pain. Right now I’m dealing with the fact he is bitten almost every single day…ugh. Last night I attempted to teach what to do when bitten (went over like a lead balloon..hahaha).

    I think the most important thing is for parents to never act shocked by what is said (that can be so hard) and to keep the conversation ongoing, so you will always be a safe “go to” for anything that doesn’t feel right.

    That’s just my initial thought… now my wheels are cranking!

  6. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    Yeah, it’s the shocked face I need to work on. I was raised Southern Baptist… you just don’t TALK about that stuff! But I want J to be safe and to know he can always come to me and talk openly and honestly with me so I guess I need to start practicing saying all those fun words… like vagina and penis. Which actually still make me really uncomfortable…. even just typing them. That’s just sad.

  7. MaconMom
    October 7th, 2011 @ 9:12 am

    I know what you mean! My parents told me nothing. We had zero conversations about anything like that. I’m thankful I had a great coworker/friend (guidance counselor from New York) who helped me get used to it all. I’m more matter of fact these days (Whew!)

  8. TarynE
    October 6th, 2011 @ 9:43 am

    We started when Luke was 2… and we just keeping reiterating it (he’s now 3). He knows that he isn’t supposed to hit/kick/punch/etc on other kids or the dog. He knows that he can give or get a hug from someone at daycare, but only if he or they ask first. He knows not to answer the front door without mommy or daddy. And he knows that only he, mommy or daddy is supposed to touch his privates. (that one is a little tough, b/c like someone else mentioned, the doctor has to sometimes.) But he is getting it, slowly.

  9. MaconMom
    October 6th, 2011 @ 9:51 am

    Well said! Thank you for making it easy!

  10. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 10:11 am

    I think trying to make a distinction about private areas is just too complicated before they’re potty trained. At that point you can start talking about how it’s not ok for people to touch their bathing suit areas but before that when anyone who is watching them may need to change a diaper it’s just too confusing.

  11. Heather Griffitts Clark
    October 6th, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    I’m going to be following your comments, I have the same fear and I have no idea how to address it.

  12. Jennifer Williams
    October 6th, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    Now. The time to start telling him is now. Did you read the post I had on Scary Mommy the other day? You just start in very general terms. I would start just by telling him at bath time, “Your penis is private and you never show it to anyone and no one should ever touch it.” He may not even “get” it, but I promise it will sink in.

  13. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

    I DID read your post… it was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning and really has been sitting in the back of my brain. Thanks for sharing and kudos to you for teaching your daughter how to handle it!!!

  14. Kristinayellow
    October 6th, 2011 @ 11:27 am

    This is such a mommy fear–I think most of us have it. I don’t want to scare her but honestly, I don’t want her to be too trusting either. So we’ve settled on just “No one touches you and you don’t touch others” for now….mostly applies to hitting or biting but it also can be expanded upon as she grows up. I will fully admit to really pushing the whole “respect words” thing from when she was a tiny baby. As soon as she could talk, if she says “Stop” or “No” regarding a kiss or tickling or anything, I try to make sure that it’s respected. I don’t want her thinking her words don’t have meaning or weight just because she’s littler than other people–even her poppa or momma. It’s tough since Poppa likes to say “Give me a kiss or I’ll tickle you” or something like that, all in good fun, but in my mind, if she says no, you respect that. That way she knows, if someone doesn’t she can shout and tell immediately. And I always always tell her that she can tell me anything–no matter what. I think that message is so important and you can’t start too early for that. I’ll be interested to see what others say–it’s a really tough call.

  15. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

    Crap. Now I am thinking about all the times I haven’t respected him saying no. Won’t do that again….

  16. Taming Insanity
    October 6th, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    Now. You start now.

    It doesn’t have to be a talk about hurting. It can be a talk about what’s appropriate. You determine the language you use – but the message that his body is his decision starts now.

    His body, his choice. Get out there and raise a safe little feminist.

  17. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Awww, I hope my son is a feminist!!! And you’re right… it’s time to start the small talk.

  18. Nellie
    October 6th, 2011 @ 11:42 am

    Our education for the munches about strangers is pretty simple. If Mommy is with you, it’s okay. If Mommy’s not around, don’t talk to strangers. And I make a point to introduce friends and say, “this is Mommy’s friend, Beth.”

  19. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Great point. I should be careful how I introduce him to people I don’t know all that well.

  20. Ali_hoce
    October 6th, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

    We taught our daughter “the triangle” when she was about 2 and a half- covers her chest to her privates- no one but Mommy and Daddy allowed to touch inside the triangle- and you avid everyone else’s triangle too…. Guess for my son we’ll just make the triangle smaller?

  21. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

    I like the “triangle” concept. J is a big fan of shapes so maybe that would help him understand it at a younger age. Thanks!

  22. Ann
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

    From the very beginning, we taught him that his body was his own – he didn’t have to hug grandma if he didn’t want to, he didn’t have to kiss great aunt suzie if he didn’t feel like it, his body was his. He could say “no.” (btw, this broke my mother’s heart a couple of times when he was just being ornery, but she understood why we were doing it).

    Then around potty training time (when he couldn’t keep his own hands out of his underwear), we taught him that any part of the body covered by underwear was just for him. It shouldn’t be touched by or shown to anyone except parents and doctors – and then, only if they asked and he agreed to it. None of these were serious sit down and talk about it times, I just mentioned them and reinforced them in a natural, matter of fact voice.

    Now (at 4) I’m reinforcing that no matter what, even if someone tells him not to, he can tell me *anything* and I will listen to him and protect him. I guess I’m hoping that by raising a confident child who knows his parents will always be there for him, and then placing him in fairly safe situations (although that’s where I have the least control), that he’ll be OK.

  23. Anonymous
    October 6th, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

    I think that’s the best any of us can do. I mean, we can’t slap an iron chastity belt on them…. can we?

  24. Chunky Mama
    October 7th, 2011 @ 1:17 am

    We always gave my oldest free reign to hug or not hug, etc. We started talking to him about which body parts are private right before he turned 3. I haven’t yet had the “stranger danger” talk with him, but I am working up to it daily. (He’s just over 4 now.)

    I think J is still really young to understand most of it. But just giving him the ability to choose when to be touched or not will be a great place to start.

    My friend told me about a book called “Your Body Belongs To You” that she thought was really great. I haven’t bought it yet, but it might be worth checking out?

  25. Wiz
    October 7th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    This is my first time commenting. I am a new follower and love your writing style. As a mother of a two year old boy who comes home all the time with bite marks, this is such a tough question. I will definitely wait on the more serious talks but I have already started thinking about bullying and how do I teach my son to stick up for himself so that he isn’t a constant target! (I know he is only two, but still, I dont think he should stand by and let someone bite him. His teachers will put kids in timeout but they dont always catch it.) So many things to think about at this age.

  26. rusti
    October 25th, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    finding & commenting SUPER late here, but I fear the same things as well, and am finding such great advice in the comments. thanks for sharing the post, and your fears, and soliciting such sound tips. Goose will be 3 in January, and she calls anything in that area her “butt” – my niece who just turned 2 in August already knows the difference between her “butt” and her “gina” because my sister, who is a lead teacher in a daycare & has her degree in child development started early teaching her those things. I need to get on top of the ball here.

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