When Sooby and Pooh spend the night at my house, we have a bedtime ritual. As soon as the jammies are on and the teeth are brushed, we hop up on the daybed in their room with a stack of books. Once we have navigated those, some more than once, we sing. By the time the concert is over, my eyelids are usually hanging down around my knees--but I am not home free yet. At this point, a little voice will invariably ask, "Can we play 'Alone in the Dark'"?
I can't remember exactly how or why Sooby and I started doing this some two and a half years ago. But apparently, one night after she and I had finished our night-time rocking chair episode, she scooted down off my lap and trundled over to flip the light switch off, leaving us in pitch blackness on opposite sides of the room. And apparently, in an attitude of playful but wistful exaggeration, I must have said something like, "Oh, I'm all alone in the dark. I'm so lonely and scared. I wish I could find a friend."
What happened next was the most precious thing. From my spot in the rocker, I held my hands out in the near-silent darkness and waited as, slowly and gingerly, Sooby felt her way across the room, following the sound of my voice. For ten seconds or so, there was only the sound of her feet brushing against the carpet and her shallow, steady breathing as she inched closer and closer. When she finally made contact with my outstretched hands, I would scoop her up and snuggle her in, rocking gently until she fell asleep. We did this many, many times over the next year and a half or so. Then, about a year ago, Pooh outgrew the porta-crib in the adjoining bedroom and graduated into the toddler bed in Sooby's room.
At first, Pooh had a little trouble with the concept of "Alone in the Dark." At the point where I would dramatically lament my loneliness and anguish, his first inclination was to run over and turn the light back on. He did not want his googie to be sad and lonely, and he knew how to fix the problem. Of course, this irritated Sooby to no end.
However, practice and patience persevered, and Pooh eventually caught on to the routine. Although he sometimes turns the light on out of pure orneriness just to hear his sister holler, I usually have two little friends heading toward me when I am all alone in the dark. This does not happen without occasional complications. While they sometimes run into one another accidentally, they have at other times tried to mow each other down in an effort to be the first one to make it over to where I am. This, I have found, is somewhat detrimental to the game's enjoyment. For the record, "Alone in the Dark" is a game that is most effective when there are only two players and when one of those players is me.
These days, after a round or two of "Alone in the Dark," I tuck Sooby and Pooh into their separate beds and say goodnight. By then I am pretty well ragged and worn. I head to my own bed where, after a full, busy day of kid patrol, being alone in the dark is not all that bad.