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One of the Things I Learned When I Was 3, But It Took Me to 29 to Realize It.

When I was a kid, I used to fall out of bed.

Not just occasionally, but every. single. night.

You’d think my parents would have put one of those attachable crib-like railings on the side of my “big girl” bed because clearly, a big girl I was not, but no.  I suppose they figured the best move was to leave me free to fight my monsters of the night without first making me launch myself over a barred piece of metal.  Because, you know, concussions are so much better when you don’t have to work for them.

Not that I was ever concussed from the ordeal.

In fact, I never even actually woke up.

Nope.  I just rolled on out of there, landing with a muffled thud on the (presumably) orange shag carpeting, and continued right on sleeping.  I honestly think my parents did nothing to stop my nighttime base jumps because they enjoyed coming into my room in the morning to see where their toddler had ended up in the night — curled up in a ball at the foot of the bed, or sprawled out like some sort of beached squid, my limbs all knotted and contorted, jammies unshamefully bunched up to expose my baby pot belly and white little calves, the epitome of nonchalance and innocence and bendiness — all the stuff it is to be a toddler.

Then, one night, all of that changed.

One night, I woke up.  It was pitch dark.  I was lying on my stomach, on what I knew wasn’t my bed, so I pushed myself up.

Or at least, I tried to.

But I couldn’t.  Thwack!  The back of my head struck metal, just inches above where I lay.  I scootched up onto my elbows, chin tucked down, and tried to raise my tush.  Thwack!  My bum hit metal again.

As an adult, my reaction in this situation would be, 1) What. the. f*ck.  2) Sheer panic.

As a kid, my reaction to this situation was, 1) Sheer panic.

I screamed, I cried, I yelled for mom and dad with such urgency that I’m pretty sure they must have thought someone was trying to kidnap me in the middle of the night, especially when they barged into the room, in panic mode themselves, and couldn’t see me anywhere.  I could hear their terrified voices yelling, Katie? Katie?!, but they sounded so far away and muffled by the walls of the wormhole into which I surely must have slipped.  The carpet turned soggy with tears below my cheek — carpet? — and suddenly, there was light.

My dad had lifted the bed skirt, took one look at his terrified daughter lying helpless under the bed, and started laughing.  My mom’s face popped into the window he’d created, and she joined in.

Now.  If you’ve ever asked yourself whether toddlers can feel embarrassment, believe me when I say that they can.  And to this day, I’m pretty sure either one of them would react the same way if they woke up in the dark and couldn’t move.  But my humiliation didn’t stop me from reaching my arms out to them so they could drag me to safety and place me snugly back in bed.

After that, I stopped falling out.

It’s like the inner workings of my unconscious little mind said, Enough.  We can’t handle this kind of stress.

Just one little scare is all it took, and my nighttime antics ceased.

But I think, ever since then, a little part of me has missed the unleashed feeling of the free fall.

Skydive Hawaii

And I think that maybe, many of us spend our adult lives trying to get that feeling back again.

But, really.

Is that so wrong?


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I can’t stop laughing about your comparison between your adult and child reactions to the same situation. So funny. Really, really well written post, Katie.


Hah but it’s true, no? Thanks Nate. :)


I used to fall out of bed, too. I would wake up falling, then hit the ground. I shared a room with my sister and she claimed that I would scooch so that a leg or arm was out of bed, then continue to scooch out into midair until only an arm or my hand and head was left on the bed. She’d make a noise and I’d wake up and fall. I eventually grew out of it sometime in my teens. My sis still claims to this day that this was true, and that it was the freakiest thing ever. Of course she sleeps with her eyes open, which I think is the freakiest thing ever.


Ack! Eyes OPEN? Yes. She wins. Hands down. (Though I’m still kind of cracking up at the image of you just kind of hovering over the ground until she’d make a noise to send you plummeting to the floor!)


You had my adrenalin pumping and me gasping for breath, just thinking of feeling trapped like that! I never know how people sleep in bunk beds where there’s not enough room to sit up. It’d be the same type of experience in the dark.

Lax, I think your sister wins with the freakiest thing… Sleeping with her eyes open? Scary. :)


It was seriously terrifying. Had I been a little older, I probably would’ve thought I’d been buried alive.

Dennis Hong

I think we have two metaphors we need to contend with here. On the one hand, maybe you do miss the unleashed feeling of freefall. On the other hand, maybe said freefall will only end up with you imprisoned inside a padded metal cell.

You might want to think about that….


That’s the point! But likely, it won’t. I think. I hope. So we can live our lives being afraid to do anything because something bad might happen, or we can just jump and hope that we have people in our lives who will laugh at us and drag us out if we get into trouble. :)

Dennis Hong

Or we can flip a finger at those who laugh at us and crawl out on our own.

Not that I’m suggesting it would’ve been a good idea to flip your parents the finger….


Yeah, I’ve learned that one the hard way before…

I kind of like that crawling out on our own idea. :)


I loved this post.

My parents would check on me 15 times a night because I never moved when I slept. They said they kept thinking I was dead and would poke me all the time.

Guess that’s why I never fully sleep through the night now…


Hahaha! That’s too funny. But also slightly traumatic, I suppose. Too bad they screwed up your sleeping schedule as an adult! :)

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