“But why? These lights get in my eyes. I need darkness before sleep,” replied Hama-Guri. He was getting a little irritated with his friend. But they were best of friends. So he was trying his best to explain that darkness is not something to be afraid of. Especially when today was Ma-Door’s first sleep over at his house. But the past half an hour had yielded no result. And he was feeling very sleepy. “Try Ma-Door! Don’t be such a baby.” He said in a coaxing voice.
“No way!” He said. “And I don’t even have my favourite pillow here.” He added grumpily.
“Hmm.” Hama-Guri responded, stifling a yawn. He really had to think hard. He wondered if he should call mumma for help or just leave the lights on and forget about it. What he did not know what that Mumma had already reached the door.
With all the noise coming from the kid’s room, she had come to have a look at them. After all they were just six. She was just opening the door to walk in and comfort the little child when she stopped. Stopped because her son had begun to speak.
“Ma-Door, since the lights are on it means I won’t get any sleep. And that means let’s talk. That’s what sleep-overs are for right?”
“Sure!” MaI-Door’s tone sounded less anxious now.
Mumma wondered where this conversation was headed. But she knew her son was up to something for sure.
“Have you ever looked at a pupa closely? Remember the time daddy took us out when we wanted to learn about growing up?” Hama asked his friend.
“Ya. This caterpillar’s change is a miracle” Ma-Door replied from the top of the bunk bed.
“And just imagine the darkness it has to stay in before it can see the light of day. If it didn’t stay in the dark it would never turn into a butterfly, right?”
“And I’m not a caterpillar and I am scared of the dark.” Replied Ma-Door grumpily.
“I know that.” Hama laughed.
Mumma, standing outside smiled. This analogy was new to her too. She was impressed with her son. And very happy that he was trying to show logic and also comfort his friend.
“Hey know something Ma-Door?”
” Emperor penguins are like you.”
“You and your love for the animal kingdom. I’m sure it’s related to darkness.” Ma-Door replied with a sigh.
“Alright I won’t tell you. You go to sleep.”
“Wait!” Ma-Door got of the bed and climbed down from the bunk. He came and sat beside Hama who was already up and sitting. “Now tell me.”
“Emperor penguins are scared of the dark. You are not alone.”
“You know why?”
“Because they feel that they will be eaten up by leopards. And they don’t even go into the waters at dark for fish in fear that whales will eat them.”
“Wow!” Ma-Door gave a small smile.
“But the point is, they have a valid reason. Why are you scared?”
Ma-Door thought for a while. But decided to speak up after all. “Don’t laugh but it’s true. The moment lights are off even normal things look like monsters. So either I sleep with lights on or some days with my mum on my favourite pillow.”
Hama hugged his friend. He hadn’t seen Ma-Door like this before. He had always regarded him as an intelligent and smart boy.
“You know of fish who give out light Ma-Door?”
He nodded. “Ya teacher taught us. The ones living deep in the ocean.”
“Yup.” Hama nodded. “Try and be like them. Emit your own light.”
“I mean to say find courage. Tell yourself that you will see yourself through darkness. You don’t get scared when we play darkroom. Then being scared of a dark room at night is just all in your mind.”
Mumma wiped a tear from her eyes. Her little boy was fat growing up. And today, hearing him talk the way he was, he sounded like an adult for sure. Kids truly can be amazing. Even when they play, they learn so much. Who would have thought that her six year old could find so many comparisons.
“Hey come come!” Hama jumped out of the bed and ran to the window.
Ma-Door followed him. A little silent. Thinking.
Hama-Guri opened the window and pointed to the tree in front. “It’s coming from there.”
“The sound. Hear. The owl. It hoots every night.” And then softly added, “Bravely!”
The two boys stood silently listening to the owl hooting for quite a while. It was a clear night with stars twinkling in the sky and the fireflies near the bush in the garden. And the mellow sound of the crickets in the silence of the night made it even more enchanting.
“You know what Ma-Door? Nights are so beautiful. Just look outside. The darkness makes everything so much prettier than a morning. If there was no darkness you would never see the stars.” Hama said shutting the window finally. “C’Mon let’s hit the bed now. I’m really sleepy. You can have the lights on if you wish.”
Once Ma-Door was up on his bed, he said “Hama, shut the lights. I will be fine.”
Hama-Guri smiled at his friend.
Mumma smiled at Hama-Guri.
The owl hooted again as the crickets continued to hum their symphony
Learning: Don’t be scared of darkness. It is nothing different from a well lit place. Be brave. And when kidsw express their fear of darkness, listen to them. Tell them its all their imagination – monsters don’t develop in the darkness. But don’t make light of the situation.
Things to Teach:
• About birds , animals and insects that can be seen during the night
• Learn more about owls, their habitat, their special powers, types of opwls etc
• Are there any animals that are really scared of the dark?
• Why emperor penguins are scared of darkness
• Why do humans feel scared of darkness
• Why stars twinkle
• Life cycle of a butterfly
• Day and night in different countries and how that happens
• Read the story about Plop, the barn owl in the book The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson
• For younger kids learn poems like “wee Willie Winkie”
• Play darkroom
• Sit with the child with a cover over your heads. Pretend you have gone camping. Stay in the darkness for a while. Then read a story book with a torch light
• Go to the terrace or the backyard and spend the night under the stars.(spread a mattress and lie down). Don’t do it in winter!!
• Ask the kids to write good and bad things about dark and then talk about it
• Visit planetarium to see the stars and learn more about constellations
• Make the room dark and then use a flash light and play shadow puppets
• Ask the older kids to write about something exciting that happens during night time. Start off the story with “When it was dark I…” You can even do a play based on one of these stories
• Paint a picture using only night colours like black, grey, silver etc