My oldest son has serious issues when he is overtired. He always has, from the time he was a newborn baby. He would stay awake too long and have a terrible time falling asleep again. That trait hasn't left him, it has just taken different forms as he's gotten a little older. Now that he is eight, it has turned into bedtime fears. The poor little guy is a bit of a worrier anyway, but when he is extra tired, he invents the strangest things to be afraid of. Sure, he's had the typical fear of monsters or of the house burning down - things that seem to be pretty normal for some kids. But in addition to those, he's amassed quite the list of irrational fears.
He went through a phase of being afraid of touching two separate substances, mysteriously found on everyday objects, that, when combined, would turn into poison.
He's been afraid of things like monsters, but also of randomly turning into a zombie.
He was afraid of "bad guys" breaking in through his room, despite the fact that the window is locked and his room is on the second story.
He was afraid of various things in his room coming alive in the night.
For a while he was afraid that his brain didn't work properly and he would stop breathing if he didn't think about breathing.
They've gotten more elaborate as time has gone on. Tonight he was afraid that his brother was going to somehow rip out his own rib, and that he might be randomly compelled to do the same thing. This was after Grayson, the little brother, showed him how he could stick his fingers under his lowest rib (skinny little dude that he is). This completely freaked him out and he jumped to the conclusion that not only would it be possible to rip your own rib out, but that Grayson was going to rip out a rib and then he just might do it too.
The hard thing is that when he gets overtired (a few too many late bedtimes is all it takes), he gets completely irrational at bedtime and no matter how many times we tell him, "It is physically impossible to rip a rib out of your own body," he doesn't believe you. He'll look you in the eye and whimper and wring his little hands and say, "Ok." Then when you try to leave, he starts in again with the, "But I'm scared!" and insist he's still afraid of the same thing.
Tonight we managed to help him calm himself down fairly quickly, although not without a lot of frustration on all sides. I feel bad that I'm not more sympathetic to his anxieties, but the tough part is, once he gets past a certain point of hysterical, he usually has to just wear himself out crying for a while before we can get through to him. Fortunately tonight wasn't so bad, he calmed down relatively quickly and we prayed together and he was able to go to bed.
One thing I really want for him is to be able to handle his emotions on his own. Obviously he's still a little guy, so we're here to help him wade through the tide of his fears. But over time, he needs to develop some ability to cope. He's very sensitive, emotionally, and does have a lot of worries. We're working on some ways for him to express those feelings and work them out, so I hope that will help him in the long run. I just don't want him to grow up without the deep realization that he is in charge of himself - he can make choices as to how he reacts and how he handles any situation.
He's a wonderful little guy, so smart and sensitive and caring. I'm sure glad God is in charge, because I never could have dreamed up a kid so awesome. I sure hope I'm worthy of the incredible honor of being his mother - and not screwing him up too badly.