Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Poking Guy

Three weeks or so ago, Sly had his first real nightmare.  He woke up in the middle of the night (which is extremely rare for him), crying uncontrollably.  We both tried to calm him down and get him to lay back in his bed, but he refused.  He sobbed and screamed, insisting on sleeping in our bed with us.  I told Tom we needed to resist, because I didn't want it to become a habit.  But it became clear that he was simply too terrified to stay in his own bed.  We finally relented, and let Sly come in the bed with us, where Tom held him close until he gradually fell asleep.

The next morning, I didn't mention it to Sly at all (not wanting to remind him lest the "sleeping in Mommy and Daddy's bed" thing become regular).  But after breakfast, as Sly was following me into a room, he kinda flew sputtering and crying around the corner, saying worriedly, "no, he didn't get Sly!"  "What, Sly?" I asked, "Who didn't get you?"  He replied, "The Poking Guy."

We had a conversation where I got him to explain, and here's some of what he said: "The Poking Guy poked Daddy.  He poked Sly.  Sly cried.  The Poking Guy has claws.  He pokes people. He doesn't have a beard.  He doesn't have a mustache."  And he confirmed that this is what had scared him the night before.

I thought the whole thing was a little bit creepy, but also somehow sweet and endearing.  He talked about it so earnestly.  I told him that we would make sure to ask his guardian angel to keep him safe (a good tip I got from Maria Von Trapp).  I decided the best approach would be to treat his concerns seriously, but also not exacerbate them by bringing it up myself.  I assured him that he would be safe, and the Poking Guy wouldn't hurt him.  Maybe I should have told him the Poking Guy didn't exist.  But...well, this will sound weird, but I felt unqualified to say that.  At least to Sly, he very much does exist.

I told Tom and the grandparents about the Poking Guy.  Everyone expressed surprise that a child so young (two and a half) was having nightmares - as well as daytime fears - about such a specific creature like that.  Sly had a few more incidents where he'd get nervous during the daytime, telling me that the Poking Guy almost got him.  But no more nightmares.  We gave him a holy card with a guardian angel picture, and Tom added some prayers to Sly's angel into their bedtime routine.

Tom had an amusing thought that perhaps our cat Lancelot was really the Poking Guy.  "Come on, " he said quoting Sly, "'The Poking Guy have claws? He pokes people?'  You know how Lance always pokes our faces in the middle of the night!"  We both laughed about it, because it does kind of make sense.  But, as I reminded Tom, Lancelot really dislikes our kids (and you would too, if you got your tail and ears pulled by them all the time), so I doubt he'd be trying to sleep in Sly's bed with him.

Sly began telling me things during the daytime like, "Sly's guardian angel keep Poking Guy away."  I was glad that he felt safer.  But after a few days, something occurred to me.  When I had talked to Sly about praying to his angel, I was only saying it to make him feel safe.  In other words, I was only pretending to pray with him to make him stop worrying - just going through the motions.  I suddenly realized that - whether the Poking Guy was real or not - Sly's guardian angel actually could help to keep him safe, and feeling safe.  I needed to actually intend to ask for help for him.

A friend of ours, who is also Sly's godfather, was visiting last week.  I told him the story about the Poking Guy, expecting him to find it cute or at least interesting.  Instead, he said - quite seriously - that perhaps the Poking Guy is actually a demon.  Ugh.  Are you kidding me?  Don't tell a mother than her two year old might be getting harassed by a demon!  I tried to put it out of my mind.

Sly hadn't mentioned the Poking Guy for a little while, so I thought maybe he was "over it."  But Tom told me that tonight, Sly was very insistent about praying to Mary and to his guardian angel to keep him safe from the Poking Guy.  He also filled Daddy in on some more details about him.  One thing Sly said was that the Poking Guy poked him on the cheek and gave him a boo-boo.  When Tom told me that, I got a chill.  "Tom!  You know how Sly's had that mysterious bruise on his cheek for, like, two or three weeks now?  The one that's not fading at all?  Oh my gosh!  It's the exact size to have been made by a finger!" 


[fyi - I'm not freaking out about this.  It's most likely just a coincidence, but it is creepy in a "sometimes it can be fun and exciting to be scared" kind of way.]

But hey, if anyone has tips about helping kids deal with fears like this, or similar stories, I'd love to heard them!


  1. Ok, that creeps ME out, a lot, haha.

    It sounds like you guys are handling the situation really well. :)

  2. Maybe try blessing him with holy water before bed. If there is any real demonic stuff behind it, it should help. Also, does Sly have a blessed crucifix over his bed? Even if it's normal nightmares, it's good to learn early to turn to God and make use of sacramentals!

    The first thought I had was that Sly's had a lot of real Poking Guys in his little life. All that time in the hospital!

    I think you're doing a great job with Sly, by the way. I love reading about how he prays and kisses Jesus' boo-boos!

    1. That's a good idea. He does have a crucifix over the bed, and I'm 99% sure it's blessed.

  3. Oh, and Anthony only has ever had one nightmare. He was repeating in his sleep, very upset, "Ant-ny wants a turn!" I finally had to wake him up. Once he was awake, he cried out, "Mommy! Baby Katie Rose is riding the train!!!" and then sobbed his little heart out.

    1. aww. Sly talks about "Baby Katie Rose" a lot, by the way!

    2. I'm amazed he remembers her. This EXACT nightmare scenario replayed itself at 4:00 this morning. Weird.

  4. Poor Sly. :( My oldest (who's now 11) started having night terrors around the same age. He still is more prone to nightmares that maybe the average child (according to my super technical "ask my friends with kids" survey). I find that it always helps to have my son talk out loud about what his nightmare was. Sometime he doesn't want to but seems relieve to get things "off his chest". Another thing that seems to help is empowering him with tools in the middle of the night. He (at age 11) is able to turn his light on for a brief time,pray, read or doodle for a while, or come get mom or dad. Just the idea that he had options other than just laying awake in the dark made him feel tons better. I know there is a vast age difference between Sly and Graham but I think most children benefit from knowing that they are in control of a situation, especially if it's scary!

    Hope this all resolves quickly for you! xoxox

  5. Matthew started have nightmares about bunnies and spiders a few weeks ago. We tell him that his Mary nightlight will keep him safe and to ask Mary to protect him. In terms of the demon thing, people at Franciscan would jump on that in a heart beat. Me, not so much. Are there demons? Absolutely. But little kids have pretty active imaginations. (Why else would Matthew be terrified of bunnies?) He keeps saying they are mean and want to hurt him. Anyways, Brian usually goes into Matthew's room and rubs his back and sings to him and shows him Mary and the crucifix. Matthew also sleeps with a glow in the dark plastic rosary. (Strange, right? Yeah, I was not thrilled with the idea, but then it worked to make him feel safer!) Matthew talks a lot about monsters being in his room during the day and we remind him that monsters are scared of Mary and Jesus and won't stay in a place with them. Just lots of reassurances when he brings things up. I also have Brian bless the house with holy water on a regular basis. It can't hurt, right? I hope Sly's terrors get better soon!

  6. I'm sorry. They are always so pitiful when these come up. I hope it passes quickly.

    I will say that the girls never had them(I'm sure Chiara will start tonight!) but Dom is highly prone, especially if they read something the evening prior. We had to put Sil's book of Saints on a high shelf for a while because some of the drawings were, ahem, probably a bit gruesome for the little ones. (It never bothers her so I'm usually stupid about "normal" child development.)

    Anyway, it sounds like you're doing everything right...more than anything, it takes time (although, wow, loosen up a bit on the bed's not heroin ;0) one night won't make a habit). LOL.

    Oh, and the demon thing? Absolutely. If we believe little ones have a closer connection to Heaven (I do, anyway) why wouldn't the Dark One be after them? (To make you feel less creepy, I also believe they are better protected than we.) Holy water, Guardian Angel prayer, nightly offerings to Our Lady and St. Joseph.

  7. Whether it's demons or not, I do think that prayer is the most powerful way to protect your child from nightmares (or fears of any kind really). Every night before bed my Dad used to bless us each individually. He would put his hand on our head, make the sign of the cross on our forehead and say "May the Lord bless you and guard you this night, and protect you from attack of the Evil One, in the Name of the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit." Then the same thing (substituting 'day' for 'night') before he left for work in the morning. I know it helped me from being scared of the dark, and of course the devil (and demons) flee at the name of Jesus, so involking the Trinity has to be a good thing. And maybe this is particular to me and my upbringing, but I always appreciated that it was my dad who did it, like he had special authority as head of the household to protect us in this way.

    I am glad that it seemed to be a one time thing, at least at night.

  8. THis story gave me the chills..perhaps ask your priest (religious leader) to do a blessing at your home?

  9. We did have the house blessed when we first moved in. But the general consensus seems to be that it can't hurt to have it blessed again. I think we'll talk to our priest about it.

  10. I guess I forgot to click "publish". At any rate, when I moved into my first apartment (at age 25) I had nightmares. (Nothing new for me but it had been quite a few years since I'd had any). A non-Catholic friend told me to bless the apartment with holy water. Result: no more nightmares!
    When my first child started experiencing "night terrors" I blessed him. I continued to bless each of my children before bed and in the morning before they left for school. I would make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say, "Jesus and His angels watch over you and keep you safe". Within the past year, my 22-year-old seminarian son was having health issues and asked me for a blessing :-)
    Aunt Kathy

  11. Wow, poor guy. My little man (2.5 years old) had a night mare the other night too. He stayed up from 12am-5 because of it.