What Beneath A Pillow Lurks

Underneath a boy’s pillow is a mysterious and dangerous place that only the bravest of parents should dare to venture.

I have found quite the variety of items under pillows over the years. The most common, by far, has been candy. There is a bear pillow that is still waiting for me to figure out how to unstick the blue candy cane that is matted into its fur after Hal tired of sucking on the candy during the night and tucked it under his pillow for safe keeping.

When Daryl was very young, I came to tuck him in and he said, “You can give me a hug, but don’t put your hands under my pillow.” That, obviously, caused me to do just that, revealing his candy stash he planned to consume that night.

The Nintendo DS has been a recent sub-pillow dweller, although we appear to have resolved that issue. I have extracted quite a few books, toys, flashlights, even pen and paper.

All the candy and toys in the world couldn’t have prepared me for last night, however. My natural hugging of a tucked-in child causes my hand to sweep under the pillow. As I hugged Hal, I thrust my right hand under the pillow and was stabbed!

“Ow! What in the world??!!”

I pulled one of Daryl’s jumbo thumb tacks out from under the pillow. “You have got to be kidding me! What were you thinking, Hal? Do you have any idea how much this would have hurt if you had stabbed yourself in the night? Look! I’m bleeding. This was a terrible idea!”

He looked suitably abashed and gave me extra-tight squeeze hugs in an attempt to make amends. I never expected to injure myself tucking my children into bed. I think I might start wearing heavy duty rubber gloves and searching the bed before I go in for the hug.

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Stuff-Messer’s Rehabilitation Program

Hal has a problem messing with other people’s stuff. His curiosity consistently gets the best of him. I was recently sitting in my bathroom and I could hear him moving around in my room. I called out to him.

“Hal! What are you doing?”

I got the standard reply: “Nothing!”

“Oh, yes, you most certainly are doing something. What are you doing?”

“I’m messing with your stuff.”

This cracked me up because he knew that the next phrase out of my mouth would be “stop messing with my stuff!” He hears it a lot. The admonition does no good, though. He still regularly, daily messes with other people’s stuff.

Daryl bears the brunt of the messing. He has to share a room with the serial messer, after all. This means “Hal, stop messing with your brother’s stuff” is the most common version of the refrain.

The single most often messed-with item is Daryl’s Nintendo DS, which he just got for Christmas last year. Hal’s desire to play with the DS is so strong that he began to hide it under his pillow. He’d get up in the night to try to play with it in his bed when no one could see him. He’d hide with it during the day.

We had tried everything we could think of to get him to stop. We tried timeout. We tried denying him special opportunities. We tried spanking. Nothing stopped him. It didn’t even cause him to hesitate or hold off for a day. We were catching him with the DS every single day!

On one particular day, my exasperated husband asked me “What are we going to do about Hal and Daryl’s DS?” I didn’t have an answer. The situation seemed unsolvable. “I honestly don’t know, honey.”

That night, I went into their room to tuck Hal in bed for the night. He was laying on his stomach and did that telltale shuffle and flop that kids do when they are trying to hide whatever they are doing. I told him to get up. He moved. Reluctantly. I lifted his pillow. I saw the DS. Then I saw red.

I wanted to rage. I wanted to shake some sense into him. I wanted to get through to him that this had to stop. I’m pretty sure I yelled as I grabbed the DS. I headed down the hallway to give it and the responsibility for finding a new consequence to my husband. When suddenly, inspiration struck. I was still angry but I had just thought of something we hadn’t tried yet. Something that was bound to work.

What is the best way to teach someone to respect someone else’s stuff? Perhaps take away their favorite stuff? I grabbed a trash bag and returned to his room. I began to grab his most favorite possessions and put them in the bag. His “sleep bee” (bumble bee pillow pet), his Pooh-bear blanket, his huge stuffed caterpillar, Dug (the talking dog), his lullaby lightning bug, his cowboy boots, his Green Bay Packers jersey, Mr. Fuzzy (a stuffed seal), his Battat airplane, and more. I filled the trash bag while he wailed and cried. And then I sat down on his bed.

“Hal, I’m not going to throw these things away.” His crying settled down. “I am taking them away and you will not have them for two weeks. You have got to stop touching Daryl’s stuff, particularly his DS, without permission. If you touch his DS during that two weeks, you will have to pick something out of this bag to give away. We will give it away and you won’t have it anymore. It will be gone. And then your two weeks will start over again. Each time you touch his DS, you will lose something out of the bag. But if you go two weeks without touching it, then you will get all of it back.”

That was a week ago. So far, everything that was put in the bag is still in the bag. We appear to have achieved success. He’s not moping around, pining for his missing items. He’s actually started playing with things he didn’t used to play with. But not Daryl’s DS. And while he’s not talking about the bag’s contents, I’m fairly sure he’s still thinking about them. And eagerly awaiting their return.