On Thinking On Thinking

It’s about an hour after the kids have gone to bed. Jordana has excused herself for a long winters’ something-r-other in the bathroom when I hear Barnaby’s bed shift, some feet patter and then the door open. I head up the stairs to intercept him before he goes into the bathroom, but I’m about 20% as fast as I need to be to pull this off. I hear Jordana laugh and tell Barnaby to check with Daddy for the downstairs bathroom, just as I am dragging myself up the stairs. Barnaby’s head appears at the top.

Me: Hey kiddo, what’s going on?

Barnaby: Well. I’m having a set of problems that I can divide into two parts. The first part is that I’m having some bad thoughts, but I know how to make the bad thoughts stop so I can go to sleep, but the *second* part is the interesting part because, I’m not having bad thoughts? But I AM having my brain going, and it just keeps going and going and I can’t seem to find a way to stop it.

Me: (bringing him into our room) Okay, what are the bad thoughts?

Barnaby: Well, I was thinking about Marlena’s Farmer, and this is where my bad thoughts actually became just my brain going. I was thinking that she shouldn’t be scared of The Farmer because I don’t know what she’s talking about – there is no farmer. But then I thought that *ACTUALLY* she isn’t scared of The Farmer, she’s scared of some things and she doesn’t know what they are and she’s too little to *explain* what she’s scared of, so she calls it The Farmer. And that way, if she’s feeling scared, just of being little and being two and a half and falling down the stairs and ALL THE OTHER STUFF THAT SHE IS SCARED ABOUT, then she can just be scared of The Farmer and she can tell us that it’s The Farmer, but it’s actually everything else.

Me: That makes sense.

Barnaby: But I was thinking that all the stuff that I’m going to invent when I grow up, the new Mars Rover and the special houses for Little Guys and the Carnaby and all that stuff, all of that stuff might be stuff that I’m just *thinking about* instead of thinking about other things.

Me: What other things?

Barnaby: Like food. Or dirt. Or I don’t know, just, things. Presents. Just, like, things in the world.

Me: And that’s what’s going on? Your mind is thinking about the inventions?

Barnaby: Partly yes and partly NO. My mind is thinking about my mind thinking about inventions.

Me: Dude, that sounds like your mind is just a mess.

Barnaby: Yeah, but I don’t know how to clean it up.

(Jordana enters from the bathroom)

Me: And that’s why you’re having trouble sleeping?

Barnaby: Yeah, I just can’t turn off my mind. Even when I have the Bad Feelings, I can turn them into something else and just think about solutions, but then the solutions are *very interesting* and then my mind is thinking about *that*.

Me: You know, that happens in our family.

Barnaby: It does?

Me: Oh yeah. It happens to me and mommy all the time. Our minds can get messy like that, especially at night, we’ve always had insomnia both of us.

Barnaby: You can’t sleep because of your brains?

Me: When Mommy and I were first living together, we’d do our day and then we’d say good night and we’d go to sleep and then, at some point in the middle of the night, one of us would wake up and we’d listen for the other one and if the other one was breathing like they were asleep we wouldn’t say anything. But a lot of times, we’d hear that the other one might be awake and we’d whisper “hey… are you asleep” and the other one would whisper, “no…” and then we’d sit and talk. For hours, sometimes.

Barnaby: Even though you’re grownups and you stay up later than kids, you still can’t go to sleep when you go to bed?

Jordana: Totally! We still have trouble now.

Barnaby: Because you can’t turn your brains off?

Jordana: Yeah, that’s about right. It’s hard to turn your brain off.

Me: But kiddo, you need to be able to use your brain tomorrow, so we need you to go back to bed.

Barnaby: Okay. I think I can go to sleep now.

Jordana: Come here.

He jumps up and instead of just hugging him, she starts to carry him in a hug.

Barnaby: Are you gonna carry me?

Jordana: Yeah! I can carry you.

Barnaby: (as they go down the hall) Mommy, I think you shouldn’t carry me. I think I’m too big.