My nine year old got a few, new pairs of pajamas for Christmas. In fact, I asked people, when they inquired of me, to get them for her as a gift. Cause every kid loves clothes, right?! But seriously, she needed them, like, really bad needed them. So, boy, was I excited to see them rolling in at gift unwrapping time. One pair was especially adorable, and when she put them on they looked so cute I made one of those “ahhhh” sounds to emphasize my approval. She was grinning, too, so I assumed her stamp was given. She ran around all night, looking adorable in her striped, raccoon-icorn pj’s, but when bedtime came and she exited from the bathroom I was not prepared for her nighttime attire. There she was, smiling ear to ear, sporting her ratty, mismatched slumber wear. Do what?!
See, that’s why we had gotten her new pajamas, and I explained as much as I tucked her in the covers.
“These pajamas are super old,” I said. “I got you new ones so you don’t have to wear the same ones every night!”
Yes, she had worn them every night for as long as I could remember. They weren’t just her favorite; they were the only pair she’d wear. If she couldn’t find them, sometimes, it was a huge deal. She would search frantically for those ratty, worn-out pajamas. She did not think she could sleep without them.
“Why aren’t you wearing your new pajamas?” I asked.
She pulled at the thin, terry cloth fabric, covered in unicorns, and she answered, “cause they’re not comfy like these.”
She went on to explain in a variation of adjectives why her old ones were so stretchy, “bendy,” and easy to fall asleep in, and at that point I realized another reason she didn’t want to let them go.
See, for whatever reason, a year ago she began to fear going to sleep. Sure, a lot of children don’t like going to sleep, but my girl’s became a huge, irrational fear. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. Or she worried she wouldn’t stay asleep. It seems that at some point she woke up in the middle of the night, it was dark, and she got scared. And once the fear started, she couldn’t get past it to fall back asleep. She was immobilized from even going back to sleep, and after that she worried it would happen again. It didn’t matter that a year had gone by and she never had a problem again. She slept like a rock, but that didn’t mean as much in the face of fear.
At the beginning of her bedtime scare, we initiated a more solid routine. We did pajamas right at the time of sleep, we brushed teeth, we said our prayers, she watched a little bit of soothing, nature documentary with her dad to settle for the night. Before we realized it, this bedtime routine became a required ritual. She felt it necessary to hit each step. If I fell asleep (on my work nights) before her without praying for her, she would wake me up to pray. We explained that my prayers didn’t hold any more weight than her own, but she persisted that I had to be the one to pray with her. She spoke the same words in her prayer every night. The script, as much as the act of prayer, gave her comfort. I realized, after a year of wearing these pajamas every, single night (we laundered them regularly) she had built them into her much-needed routine. She felt like she needed those exact pajamas to sleep well.
I recognized that we all had our own pair of safety pajamas. And when I say pajamas, I don’t just mean pajamas. I mean that we all have routines, comfort zones, and certain people or things that make us feel secure. The bad part is those items in our life have no more power than some unicorn sleeping pants, but we give them a place of power when we allow them to keep us from moving forward into something better, or into the future God has for us.
How many women stay with an abusive man who has convinced her she cannot do better in life? I once spoke with a prostitute who remained under the thumb of her pimp because she felt that was the best she could do in life. She didn’t believe she deserved better.
How many men stay in a relationship where they are belittled and beat down?
How many of us stay in a job we hate? I can remember saying “better is the devil you know than the one you don’t.” I get it.
How many of us hate where we live, but are afraid to move somewhere new?
What about your career? I dreamed of being an actress on Broadway, but I let someone in my life convince me it wasn’t realistic to pursue, that I needed to go find a “real” job. So now, I just sing show-tunes to my intubated patients.
Yes, it’s good that I’m a nurse, but what I’m saying is, how often do we miss out on the best life for us and our families because we’re afraid to change pajamas? You see what I mean? Sometimes it’s easier to stay stuck in a routine we don’t really love, and that routine becomes a crutch. In fact, it becomes an albatross, or a millstone around our neck. It holds us down from enjoying the new gift we’ve been given, and we miss out on the fact that the new stuff may fit us even better than we could have ever imagined.
Well, I will report that she’s still wearing those old, ratty pj’s. The new ones are sitting in her drawer, still, but I’m hopeful that we can show her the truth. The truth is, change is scary, but it also brings blessing. Allowing fear to keep us from stepping out into the new, it only hurts us in the long run. We all could use a reminder of that. So, here’s to a new year of new things, new changes, new courage, and new confidence. I hope we all can embrace the new.