Lately I’ve been trying to understand my kid’s fears about sleeping on his own. By chance, I stumbled upon a book on Shadow Work (a practice usually done by answering prompts by journaling or other creative outlets). This particular one was recommended to me by a friend on discord (Into the Wild. Shadow Work Journal by Dominica Applegate). I started working on it today, after asking for divine protection and illumination.
One of the prompts asked about fears of the dark during childhood. As I started answering I realized that my kid’s experience is not at all dissimilar to mine. I arrived at an interesting insight that I want to develop further, but I’d like to recount it now so I don’t forget. While I do this I’m also attempting to develop a narrative that I can share with my six year old so that we can break this curse.
T and I are mirror images in a way. He has inherited my highly sensitive nature. He has to learn how to survive in the real world, just like I did.
I too got taken away from the world I knew, from the people I communed with, from the land of my birth and closest ancestors, at six years old. Like T, I also had a growing suspicion of the ways in which I was different. He is neurodivergent, with an as of yet undiagnosed ADHD and sensory processing disorder. I was a foreigner and a baby trans (though I had no idea what being transgender meant, just that I rejected my gender of birth and wished to be like one of the boys). T has lost his daily routine with his father, and I lost my routine with extended family, especially with my maternal grandparents who raised me for the first few years of my life.
We both have troubled mothers, who try their best, but who are assailed by deeper, unhealed wounds.
As a kid I was obsessed with vampires. I was about 7 or 8 when I started fearing the dark. Up till then, before we moved to another country to join my father, I shared a bedroom with my mother. Before that I used to share a bedroom with my grandparents. I would often have nightmares, but wake up and be comforted by their presence and go back to sleep. That changed when we moved and I woke up all by myself in the dark. I would plead with my parents to let me stay with them, to sleep on the floor, for anything. At first my father stayed with me a bit longer after a bedtime story, sometimes falling asleep on my bed. Eventually he would wake up in the middle of the night and go to his room (a routine I’ve also picked up over the years with T), and I’d find myself alone, going into my parent’s room to get him to join me again. My poor dad was exhausted, and our little dance ended when they told me to just keep the light on. So from then on, I was alone, just me and a little lamp, faring against the dark and its terrors.
But it was more complex than that, you see, during that time I met another child during one of those loud birthday parties at my parents’ friend’s house, and our interaction was eye opening and isolating. We were playing, and I was trying to tell her that we should be careful, should “the devil” take us. To be fair, we were outdoors at night and my Catholic imagination didn’t help. Her response was that her parents had built a fence that would keep out anyone, and that it kept her safe. I tried to reason with her, telling her that metaphysical evil cannot be stopped by a material barrier, but her response was firm. I couldn’t change her mind, and I remember thinking: “What a poor fool!”. Now, thinking as a former child and parent, I applaud those parents for instilling that level of confidence and sense of trust and safety in my little friend.
What I didn’t understand back then, my fear of the dark, I see clearly now. Out of any other monster, I fixated on vampires. Why? Even when I grew up a bit, during my pre-teen years and edgy adolescence I focused on them. I lost myself in their narratives (hello, Interview with the Vampire), wishing then to be eternally young and beautiful, alluring and dangerous.
The answer is in the blood.
Who else was beautiful, young, alluring, cold, dangerous? Who was able to take all life force and will, drain me and leave me dry? The answer is simple, and yet extremely troubling. My mother had been draining me all along.
The vampire’s curse is to be eternally thirsty: unable to self-sustain their life force, they must hurt others in order to survive. While some vampires work around their curse, only taking what they need, others enjoy the thrill of the chase. They love toying with their victims, and delight in murder and cruelty.
It took me a long time to realize that my mother has that dark potential in her, and that knowledge made me realize that I have it in me too. I may not be a clinically diagnosed narcissist like her, but dealing with her disorder has caused wreckage that I’m still to this day discovering.
Why share all this? Because if I can’t put it into words I’ll be stuck forever, and I have a mission on this earth. I can’t have my son perpetuate this specular dance.