The Dark Ages

My husband just told me that he has to do some traveling for work over the next few weeks.  I’m upset.

Not because the trip has screwed up any grand plans.  But because it makes me face one of my biggest fears.

Yeah, I’m a grown adult afraid of the dark.  It’s ridiculous.

I have several mainstream fears, like heights and flying.  I have others that are perhaps less common — like crock pot infernos and being struck by a flying baseball.  But being home alone overnight really shakes me up.  I’m a complete and total chicken shit.

It’s worse since we moved out of the city.  You would think I’d be more scared in Manhattan, but I felt right at home there.  And I liked the fact that, 13 stories up, nobody was going to climb into my window.  There was plenty of crazy to go around, but it had to get past my doorman and seek out my apartment in a huge building. 

Here, in pretty suburbia, I feel like someone could just walk up to a window and smash it.

And if that’s not neurotic enough, I’ll disclose that my fear is not exclusively reserved for the living.  I am also afraid that my 100 year-old house will, one night when I’m alone, make itself known as haunted.

Could all of this crap happen with my husband home?  Yes, of course.  But the neurotic mind doesn’t work that way.  Except for last week, when I realized around 3am that P had left the side door to the house open (not unlocked — open).  I was convinced a serial killer was hiding somewhere in the basement.  So of course doing laundry down there was out of the question for at least a week.  Safety first.

You know how you have those moments of “I’m so not qualified to be a parent”?  That’s how I feel when I’m home with the kids on my own overnight.  Like a 13 year-old babysitter who has seen one too many horror films.  Who has also broken into the liquor stash.  But without the forbidden make-out session with the boyfriend on the couch.

I do blame some of this fear on a very specific memory bank of images culled from scary movies over the years.   I’m seriously scarred for life, but am finally wise enough not to even try to watch them anymore.  Even commercials.  Like the one for Paranormal Activity.  The baby monitor image, with the kid standing in the crib and the dog barking.  Areyoufuckingkiddingme?  I can’t even think about it.  Or those ghost-chasing reality shows.  Because this is the crap that my mind conjures up late at night when my husband travels. 

And, for the record, logic has no place here.  I can make any far-fetched horror movie plot fit into my life at 2am when all alone in my bed.  At that hour, it seems so obvious that an evil leprechaun is of course living under my stairs and trying to kill me.  Or one of my kids’ dolls has morphed into the Bride of Chucky.  Or Charlie Sheen is on a bender and roaming the streets. 

So.  What do I do to get through these nights?  A few things.

First, it’s a good thing I have my ferocious guard dog. Pffft.  The only action he would take is to demand a belly rub from an intruder.

I do a full sweep of the house before I go to bed.  And I mean full.  Closets.  Under the beds.  In the showers.  Within the mountain of dirty laundry.

Of course I lock every part of each door and window.  Depending on how many strange noises I’ve heard — like cars driving down the street, heat coming through the pipes — I may or may not put a chair in front of the back door. 

I shouldn’t share this — but why stop now?  My secret weapon is closing the baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs.  If anything will slow down an intruder, it’s taking the time to unlock those gates in the dark.  This will buy me precious minutes to wake up the guard dog by promising him bacon wrapped in chicken for a week.  Unless the intruder is a father to toddlers and can master the gate latches blindfolded.  Then I’m done for.

Naturally, all of this will not help me against the undead who may be angry that I’ve put a monstrous swing set on sacred ground.  Or don’t like the color choice I’ve made for the dining room.  So I sleep with the phone by my bed (to call who, I’m not sure — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis?).  Maybe I leave one little light on in my room, too. 

I also keep the TV on for white noise — but not Poltergeist white noise, to be clear.  More like Real Housewives white noise.  Because that’s calming.  And as much as I’d love a bedside flask to keep my nerves calm, I can’t risk compromising my speed and agility if confronted.  Priorities, people.

Who allowed me to be a parent?  Or an adult with voting privileges?  I’m as mystified by this as you are. 

I swear, I have heard and overcome some scary things in my life.  Things like “We’re going to induce you to deliver this nine and a half pound baby now” and “Shoulder pads are totally coming back in style.”  But this fear of the dark, I can’t shake it.

So, go ahead and laugh at me.  I understand.  Or send me any suggestions you might have for me to pull it together.  Or tell me you are the same way (yes, lie to me).

Or just offer to come and sleep over while my husband’s away.  Pretty please.

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  1. Julie says:

    I close the baby gates too! Yes, robber, rapist, evil being from planet Zorkon, you may have been able to circumvent the alarm system and guard dogs, but you are no match for my Evenflo swing gates!

  2. kari says:

    You have so got to have a girlfriend (that is single, not missing her other half) that would be thrilled to spend a week laughing with you all night!!! It’s like girls night every night for a week…

    Your posts make me belly laugh every time!!! Heck, I’d come stay with ya if I wasn’t broke & a million miles away 😉

    • fordeville says:

      My girlfriends are fabulous, but I think they know that sleeping over here is like a front row seat in Crazytown. But I haven’t yet exhausted all of my options, like blackmail.

  3. Gah – I hate when I have to be alone overnight (that is, alone with the kids without my husband). I think it’s because I never had to live alone. Growing up I shared a room with my sister, then various college roommates, then my husband. And each and every time I was comforted by the same convoluted logic: Whatever monster/murderer/ghost was coming my way would of course reach the other person first, and having dispatched of that person in some horrifying manner, they would have had enough and would leave me alone. OF COURSE!

  4. I have an overactive imagination as well. And I’m glad I live in an apartment otherwise I would probably have written this post 2 months ago when my husband was overseas for 3 freaking weeks, leaving me alone with the toddler.

    My suggestions? Keep all the lights on, don’t watch any scary movies/ TV shows and get a big ass dog as companion to you and your current tummyrub dog. And tell the husband to hurry up and come home. Oh, and stay online all night with your bloggy/ Twitter buddies!

    • fordeville says:

      Excellent suggestions — thank you. And you are kind to classify me with an “overactive imagination,” when we both know I’m, in fact, just a little insane.

  5. I soooo feel you on this one. I actually just had my first night without the hubs in our apartment since The Nut was born. Except that I booked a friend for a slumber party the day that my husband mentioned he’d be out of town. Two months ago! That was Option A followed by B) ambien and wine or C) Yo Gabba Gabba and cookies until daybreak with a short and whiny sidekick. I’m pleased with my decision. I will, however, try Option B the next time The Nut heads out of town.

    • fordeville says:

      Option B sounds amazing for just a regular old Saturday night, as long as I’m not on kid duty. As for Option C, that’s what they meant by The Rapture. I’d take death by intruder over that option.

  6. Ninja Mom says:

    I’m no help in the empathy department. I like alone time (though, not too much of it).

    However, it seems reasonable to put something noisy across the floor in front of your exterior doors. Kinda like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible does with the broken lightbulb glass, except I would suggest those biodegradable Sun Chips bags. Easier on toddler feet and the loudest snack bags ever created. What they have gained in compostibility they have had an equal gain in noise pollution.

    • fordeville says:

      Finally — an excellent alternative use for those Sun Chips! Mine are so stale that they would be extra super effective. I’m off to Costco now for a jumbo pack to get me through my husband’s travel schedule.

  7. Glamamom says:

    Not laughing at all. Houses totally creep me out. I feel nice and secure in my 1,500 square feet and my neighbors within earshot of my screaming. Wait, I’m not helping am I?

    LOL at the dog. Ours is the same. He’d sell us out for a belly rub or a treat any day.

    • fordeville says:

      If promised an extra treat, my dog would walk over my dying body on the floor to take up house with the intruder. That’s *if* he even woke up from his state of deep snoring like an 80 year-old man.

  8. Ilana says:

    Thank you for adding to my list of reasons to be terrified of the suburbs. I have vivid memories of running as fast as I could past the plate glass window in the downstairs hallway of my childhood home for fear of someone shooting me through the glass.

    And housewives white noise? Couldn’t sleep without it.

    • fordeville says:

      You’re welcome. Do you want the number for my realtor out here?
      Oh, and I think that the sound of the RHONJ’s voices alone could deter an intruder. Or distract him enough for me to sweep the leg.

  9. Kerri says:

    I totally relate to the 13th flights up. I grew up 8 flights up. Now I am in a 2 family and one flight up. As much as I think about a house, what you write about reminds me that this is one of the things that goes along with a house.

    • fordeville says:

      Yeah, and you never see that in the MLS write ups…”One short flight up — intruder accessible.”

  10. True story: I’ve never slept alone in an empty house. I think I was supposed to once, but I was awake all night watching cartoons and clutching a baseball bat. I feel your pain. I know you’ll survive.

    • fordeville says:

      Thanks — but if I don’t, can you get the password for the blog from my husband and make a posthumous drawing of me jumping baby gates?

  11. Well, I can somewhat relate to your fears. I don’t like being home alone at night either. I will sleep with the closet light on and door propped open, so I can see anything and everything. I’m with you on the TV for white noise. I panic about the “what would I do to get to Mia” more than anything else, but I do love your point on the baby gates. They are definitely not the match for everyone. I have visions in my head based on my horror movie viewing past, but I’m with you I can barely sit through them anymore and the commercials are more than I can handle.
    On the rare occasion that hubby is out of town for a night, I will still call my Mother and invite her over for a slumber party. Yep…at 32, it’s still the case. We eat, drink and watch fun movies! That definitely keeps my mind off of the “what ifs.” Other people in the house, besides my 2 dogs and child help me out! Good luck!

  12. I hope you find someone to stay over with you while your hubs is away. If not, Katy’s ambien + wine remedy sounds like it could be very effective. Although if a kid needed you in the middle of the night you might be too loopy to respond. Hmmm… Rent-a-cop?

    • fordeville says:

      Katy may be my new hero with the Ambien + wine option. If not for this purpose, then for some other, more appropriate occasion.

  13. J-Fo says:

    Here’s the Johnson way to ward off intruders – spend a bazillion dollars on a state of the art alarm system and then never hook it up. Just hope that the tacky alarm company warning sign in front of your house (which husband refuses to remove) works.

    • fordeville says:

      So you think that one alarm sign is tacky outside? Interesting.
      Because I was considering lining my lawn with 34 such signs while P is away. Too much?

  14. Luisa says:

    I howled..ugly snorting laughter at this one – sadly I was in the queue at the bank at the time… explaining was a little tough

    • fordeville says:

      But, more importantly, did anyone on the bank line offer to come stay with me after hearing the source of your snorting?
      Oh, wait. I should offer to pay for their flight — that may be prohibitive.

  15. Jenn says:

    I could have written this (just not as well), which is the only reason the thought of moving to the suburbs freaks me out a bit. Every night home alone is like that opening episode of Scream for me. My suggestion (I do this even now in my apartment when Jeremy is away): Stay up late, until you can’t possibly stay up a minute longer (2am?). This results in less time spent in bed wondering “What was that noise, is he in the hallway!? Has he already got the kids?!?”

    • fordeville says:

      I like it. This could work for me. Except after three consecutive nights of little sleep, I will be a total zombie. Oh, wait, then I’d fit right in.

  16. anna says:

    i am totally the same, though i usually keep it to myself. thank you for letting me know i’m not alone. i usually invite my mom who mocks me “what, your 70 year old mother is going to save you?” uh, yes!

    i also sometimes consider going to a hotel, but with little kids that would be such an ordeal, let’s face it,i’d rather just take my chances.

    good luck in june! you can keep me on speed dial!

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