Shane’s Story Time: My Strange Childhood Sleep Stories
Last month my sister-in-law sent me something she was reading about head-banging in children. I hadn’t really thought about it for a while until she reminded me. As I thought about my sleep habits from childhood, I realized that I had a few different things going on there.
My parents tell me that my head banging started when I was practically a baby. If they had people over, they would have to explain that the rhythmic noise they were hearing was just their little boy. At that time, I would sit up in my bed and gently bang my head against the wall until I fell asleep. They may or may not have consulted the family doctor about it. In any case, they didn’t really do anything to intervene.
It was within a year or two that I had one of the most frightening experiences of my life and something that would modify my sleep patterns for years. This story is going to be based on my memories of the incident and what I have been told about it over the years. I realize that memories are extremely imperfect, but I think the main points of the story are probably accurate. I remember lying down to go to sleep. I had a Sesame Street nightlight next to my bed. I also was in the habit of sleeping with the covers pulled over my head. At some point, I woke up to some noise. I was just coming to when I heard some kind of growl. Slowly pulling the covers down from my head, I looked over and saw a huge lion head growling on my wall. Yes, it was similar to the MGM intro. Imagine being a toddler and seeing that full size right next to you on your wall!
My parents tell me that they heard a horrific scream coming from my room. I remember them bursting in and picking me up to carry me out as I couldn’t even formulate any words since I was so petrified. Even as I was being carried away, I remember that I could still see that lion on my wall growling at me.
The next night, I refused to go to sleep in my room. I was way too shaken up. As an adult, I realize that this was a night terror, but there was no way to reason with me at that time. So my parents got my pillow and blanket and let me fall asleep on the floor of the living room where it was much safer, at least to me. When they went to bed, my dad carried me to my room, where I finished sleeping for the rest of the night. The night after that, it was the same thing. It soon became the norm each night.
Even when I started kindergarten, I was still falling asleep in the living room each night. In second grade, we moved from a trailer to a two-story house. The bedrooms were upstairs, but the living room was downstairs. It was obvious to me that the lion may have followed us to the new house. So now I would fall asleep in the dining room next to the living room. Again, each night my dad would carry me up to my room to sleep the rest of the night.
Meanwhile, my head-banging continued. According to articles I’ve read, head-banging is actually pretty normal and occurs in up to 15% of children, with most growing out of it by ages 3 to 5. I was well beyond that. My head-banging was mostly a soothing mechanism, just like sucking my thumb was (another habit that I had until I was 7). I would also rock myself in the car when I would ride with my parents somewhere. Both the rocking and head-banging were often accompanied by humming. Unlike just random humming, I have distinct memories of humming specific songs over those years, some of which were seasonal and based on the closest holiday.
These habits lasted for years. In fact, it wasn’t until we moved again around sixth grade that I finally slept in my own room each night. By then, my head-banging had also stopped. After that, my sleep habits were fairly typical. Today, I fall asleep very easily and hardly move at all once I’m out. Neither of these habits really carried forward.
I have no idea if my parents ever grumbled about my sleep habits, and I don’t remember ever getting into an argument about these habits with them myself during those years. Having had children of my own, there’s no way I would have put up with letting my child fall asleep outside of their room and having to carry them up to their bed every night for 10 years. My parents just did it. And in that way, they gave me what I needed at that time. That’s just one more thing that I think makes them pretty special people.