Lights Out

As parents we never want to see our children frightened. But every morning after Will wakes up and every night before he goes to bed, he lives out a nightmare that torments him on a daily basis. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

It starts shortly after he awakens from blissful slumber. Knowing the chaos headed our way, we try to soften the blow by giving him some milk and letting him sleep in our bed for a half hour or so. But eventually it’s time to wake up and start the day. And for Will, that means facing a terrifying proposition that ends with him being enveloped in darkness and temporarily cut off from the rest of the world. He tries his hardest to avoid it—and we’d like nothing more to protect him from it—but it’s an inevitable part of his life that he, and we, will have to simply come to grips with.

After all, he can’t go to school naked.

Yup. Will is PETRIFIED when it comes to getting dressed. Specifically, putting his shirt on. The .000004 seconds the shirt goes over his head and temporarily leaves him in the dark bring on an anxiety attack that makes Woody Allen seem downright calm. Mel Gibson would have an easier time peacefully sitting in at temple during Yom Kippur. Charlie Sheen stands a better chance at embracing sanity and actually being funny than the likelihood of Will angelically standing pat while we pull his shirt over his head in the morning and again after bath time.

No matter how many times we try to show Will how painless the process will be, he still freaks the fuck out.

I stretch the head-hole for him. I try to reason with him. I’ve eliminated all “tight head” shirts from his wardrobe. But it doesn’t matter. I tried to put his Celtics tank-top on and he still pitched a fit. A tank-top people!!

Every morning I have to literally wrestle with him. Arms flailing, legs kicking…sometimes MJ has to pin him down like a mental patient or I need to leg-lock him while I force the shirt over his head. It’s gotten to the point I flat out lie to him now. I put all of his other clothes on first and I hide the shirt. When he’s convinced he’s safe and turns his attention to the TV, that’s when I pounce. I launch my sneak attack with deft dad stealth and wrangle the shirt over his head while holding his arms down with my elbows.

Sure he cries and accuses me of lying. And that’s fair because, well, I did lie. But I’m OK with that. The kid has to wear a shirt and I’m not some hippie parent who’s going to sit around and discuss the benefits and necessity of clothes until he gets dressed of his own free will. Screw that noise.

The way I figure it,  he’ll get so sick of me badgering him every day that he’ll eventually just start picking the lesser of two evils and begin to put on his shirt himself just so he won’t have to deal with me. Seriously. I can be pretty obnoxious and persistent. That’s how I wore MJ down and got her to marry me.

Enjoy the video.

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16 thoughts on “Lights Out

  1. Ever think of getting him some button-ups to throw in the mix so its not always terrifying? I can understand not wanting to give him an option that is not the regular shirts though, since then that’s all he’ll want. *shrug* sounds awful. My daughter also hates getting dressed, but its not because she’s afraid. Hope you figure something out.

  2. Have you thought about button downs for the days when you’re extra exhausted?

  3. Sorry, for some reason I didn’t see the other two ppl suggesting that as well. (blush)

  4. He does have button shirts. But those tend to be his nicer shirts. And when he goes to school they play with so much paint, clay, glitter, paste, etc that his shirts get worn out pretty fast. That’s why we send him with “play clothes.”

    But even beyond that, I’m of the belief he just needs to get over it. I don’t want to make it worse by placating him. But thanks for the suggestions.

  5. I love the way he winds it down at the end, lol. He’ll get over it eventually. Or he’ll be scarred for life by your antipathetic handling and end up as one of those guys that wears nothing but leather vests and chaps. Could go either way.

  6. I agree with you about not placating him. As parents I think we have to believe that at some point, these idiosyncrasies will pass. I can’t imagine he’ll be freaking out about putting on a shirt the same way when he starts college. Hopefully the phase will end much sooner than that though. Right now my kid absolutely loses it when I change her diaper or try to dress her. Flips over onto her stomach, sits up and screams bloody murder when I turn her back over to finish the job. I don’t think she’s remotely scared, however my process is similar: I almost have to pin her down to complete the task, however once it’s done, she’s just fine.

  7. @Jack@TheJackB,

    It’s official. I’m too tired to read. I read your comment quickly as “Get him something cheery like a Laker girl.” Somehow I don’t think a live-in Laker cheerleader would help the situation! ;-)

  8. After reading this, I’m glad my girls dress themselves. Well, they are 17 and 20 . . . Seriously, I hope Will gets over his fright soon. I’m sure all of you are exhausted as you start your day.

  9. Have you tried associating the shirt with something “happy”? Like bribing him with candy (put this shirt on and you can have this candy) or somethig else he really likes. Playing catch maybe?

  10. Danielle has the same fear…just have to make it quick and get it over with and make sure they know you won’t make it dark…its tough…David went through this phase too. The longer you try and explain the more fear there is associated that there is something wrong with it. Say not one word and just put the sucker over his head fast no warning.

    danielle is going through it now. If I do it really fast, she laughs with relief, thats how i know its real. Poor things.

  11. Awww poor Will. I have been catching up on the Daddy Files as I get my 3 year old to bed tonight. As I watched the video Aubrey said, “Awww, my friend is crying!” A little one here in Southern California is thinking about Will tonight! I hope that in time dressing gets easier for the parents as well!

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