7 Feb
Posted in: parenting
By    Comments Off on Late Night Television and Fear of the Dark

Late Night Television and Fear of the Dark

My love of late night television stretches back over two decades when my fear of the dark began.

I first watched The Tonight Show, then with Johnny Carson, as a 6th grader. We had moved into a new-to-us house. The house was older, not well-taken care of, and my bedroom was in the basement. I moved into a new neighborhood and was heading to middle school. That time in my childhood was full of insecurities and riddled with low self-esteem.

After the move, I started feeling less and less comfortable with the dark and eventually the discomfort turned into full-blown fear. I refused to sleep in the basement.  I would lay in bed for hours becoming more and more agitated with every sound. Eventually, I began to stay up late until it was impossible to stay awake. Thus my late night television watching habit began.

I watched hours of Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall, most of the jokes and interviews being above my head and riddled with themes that were nowhere near my ability to understand. I’m glad my own children feel safe and comfortable in their own rooms and own beds, safe in the knowledge there is nothing lurking in the dark corners. I was certain the dark held unimaginable terrors, whether in my own room, on the front porch waiting to get in, or lurking in the alley. Late night television helped mask the noises I heard once everyone else was in bed and the dark settled in.

Tolkien darkness/night quote

Last night my husband and I watched Jay Leno say goodbye to The Tonight Show, making room for Jimmy Fallon to take the helm. I sat on my own couch, in my own home and thought about that scared girl. Late night television, especially The Tonight Show, was my coping mechanism to get through dark nights. It’s silly, but I’m sad to see Jay Leno say goodbye. I’ve spent a lot of hours with him keeping me company in the dark.

I’m not as afraid as that preteen girl, but I’m not completely comfortable in the dark. My heart races in dark parking lots, whether I’m alone or not, and I twitch with every noise I hear in a quiet house. I’m sure my husband rolls his eyes each time I whisper in the dark, “What was that?” or “Did you hear that?”

Late night television still helps my day unwind. Most of the time, I’m doing other things before bed but with a late night talk show on. I can see now that using late night television to cope with my fear, only led me to other bad habits. I’ve been a night owl since becoming nyctophobic. I find it difficult to fall asleep before midnight. I’ll toss, turn and check the clocks dozens of times before finally drifting off. I’m hoping 2014 will be the year I learn to go to bed the same day I woke up.

I believe my tendency to worry is linked to my nyctophobia. My mind wandered to so many ridiculous places on countless dark nights. There’s nothing wrong with my imagination. Calling it over-active would be an understatement.

Only one of our children, our 4-year-old, has any fears. She fears dogs, in the heart-stopping, get-me-out-of-here way. I’m mindful of how she feels. I don’t want to leave her to her own devices to cope with her own fears. Pretending it’s not valid or saying it’s silly, isn’t helpful. That’s what I was told. It didn’t help. I felt alone and afraid. Just perfect. If we wouldn’t have had a TV, I don’t know how I would have made it through all those nights. There have been countless interactions with dogs that I’ve talked to my little girl about. We’ll work through this together, and hopefully her fears will subside and vanish without any repercussions. I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is the answer to a little girl’s fears.

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