February 4, 2013 by talkaboutyork

My children are poorly. With cold. This for boy children is equivalent to man flu. Occasionally, when they get ill, they sleepwalk. It is terrifying. It happened last night, briefly, one after the other, but I managed to get them back into bed without too much crazy going on.

Can’t say the same about tonight. I shall now describe what has just happened:

I am watching TV in the sitting room, learning all about Richard III and his remains. I hear footsteps coming down the stairs. Loud, noisy, clumsy. Not the footsteps of a child sneaking out of bed to ask if he can sleep in my bed or to say he isn’t feeling well. I am alone. Husband is away for the week again. Wind is roaring down the chimney. Rain is rattling the panes. For a moment I wonder if an adult has broken into the house as the footsteps are so heavy. I am slightly spooked.

I hear the footsteps go into the kitchen, more stumbling and thumping around. I’m about to get up to investigate when my 8 year old appears, white as a sheet in the sitting room.

‘What’s wrong son1?,’ I ask. ‘Do you not feel well?’

‘It’s just. Can you just. I don’t. Can you just come. Please. Please mummy. Please,’ he says, eyes as big as saucers.

I immediately think something awful has happened.

I follow him out. He goes up the stairs. He pauses on the landing.

‘Go sleep in my room,’ I say, ushering him towards my bed as he seems lost as to where to go.

He gets into the bed. Then immediate climbs out.

‘NO MUMMY. Please. Just listen. Just come. I have to show you. Please. Just look.’ He walks to the bathroom. He stops and pulls his hair. He seems to have developed a weird facial tick that he doesn’t normally have, wrinkling up his nose and squeezing his eyes shut before opening them wide.

‘What is it?’ I ask, starting to cotton on that I’m dealing with someone who is walking and talking but isn’t actually there. ‘What do you want to show me?’

‘Look. Can’t you just listen. It’s just. I don’t know. Gibberish.’ He goes back to the bed.

‘Come lie down,’ I said patting the pillow.

He does. He shuts his eyes. I stroke his head. Then he sits bolt upright.

‘But I just want it to be perfect. Don’t you understand. Why won’t you listen. I want it to be perfect. Please mummy.’ He’s on his knees now, pulling at his hair, his pyjamas. He’s pleading with me, as though I’m about to take a mallet to a much loved lego creation. He has his hands out, as though fending me off, as though I’m some kind of monster who only he can see. I start to wonder if perhaps I am growing horns.

‘It will be perfect if you just lie down,’ I say, patting the pillow.

He leaps out of bed one last time to show me something. He feels the walls for non-existent light switches trying to put them on or off. I coax him back into bed.

He is covered in sweat. He is ice cold. He is white. I can’t give him anymore medicine as he had a full dose at bedtime.

I sit on the side of the bed, stroking his forehead, willing him to go back to proper sleep, rather than this zombie-esque, utterly terrifying trance he is in.

I can tell he is not asleep. He’s still wrinkling his nose and twitching his eyes. It reminds me forcefully of all those nights I sat next to his cot as a baby, stroking his head, waiting for him to drift off to sleep. And then gradually making my hand lighter, extracting it, putting weight on my feet, willing the floor not to squeak, being able to take two steps before his eyes would dart open. This time, as his eyes dart open, I simply say, ‘I’ll be back soon.’ And he drifts off.

As I type this, I hear footsteps on the stairs again. Terrified now to go through the whole thing again, I jump up and say, ‘Son1?’

It’s not him. It’s his younger brother. ‘What are you doing son2 I ask?’

‘It’s just, I’m getting, you know that thing. That thing will be better.’ He rubs his wrist, over and over, then turns his back on me and heads towards the playroom. He has already navigated his way down three flights of stairs, I’m not about to let him do the last, most treacherous stairs in the house.

‘Come back to bed I say,’ turning him around.

He’s compliant. Says nothing, just climbs back up. He stops outside his room. Lost. I ask if he needs to wee. He walks to the toilet, starts to pee and then breaks out into an insane grin. He finishes and walks back to his bed with his pants still down. I pull them up and put him into bed.

‘Night night,’ I say.

‘But mummy, it’s the thing. We didn’t do it. Gibberish.’ His eyes are wide as a saucers and jet black. He face goes from blank to mad grin, to blank in seconds.

‘It’s fine, we’ll do it in the morning,’ I say and he immediately drifts back to proper sleep.

Sleepwalking is terrifying. It is not like the pictures where people have their eyes closed and arms out in front of them. They have their eyes very much wide open, wider than normal and they have conversations. I keep expecting one of them to turn into some kind of crazed axe murderer or get red glowing eyes with a head that spins round several times. I seriously hope they stay in bed for the rest of the night. I’m not sure my heart can cope with any more.

Back to Richard III’s remains. Far less spooky.


4 thoughts on “Sleepwalking

  1. Expat Mum says:

    Ugh, I hate that. One of my boys had night terrors even as a baby and would look at me as if I were a complete stranger. The worst thing was I was told not to wake him up or even pick him up as it would make it all worse.
    I’ve had a few incidents since when he’s been ill and woken up like yours. He was talking about having to get his time sheet (?) in or something, and I just went along with it while I took him back to bed.
    It’s almost funny reading about it now, but at the time it’s awful. Just as well they don’t remember it.

  2. My boys haven’t done it, but my husband used to sleepwalk when we first met (he seems to have grown out of it now). The weirdest thing he ever did was to get up and go and shave in the middle of the night – but only half his face. He also used to jump out of bed and run across the room fairly often.

  3. Iota says:

    One of my sons and my daughter have both had various forms of this (though less long drawn out than the experience you describe). My other son sleeps like a log, and used to fall out of bed without waking up.

  4. judithkingston says:

    Oh my goodness that is utterly terrifying! And both of them, as well! I actually got goosebumps reading this.

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