Trouble with Reading Lights

As you read this post, you will realize that the title is a tremendous understatement, but I wanted to put all of this in context.

Peter, like both of his parents, reads before going to sleep every night. Story time was always part of his bedtime routine, and once he learned to read himself, he took care of story time on his own.

His bed has always had a reading light, but we have always had a little bit of trouble figuring out where to clip it, how to aim it and just how to make it work in general. Here’s the light he had been using:

In the past 6 months Peter got new bunk beds (a hand me down from his Aunt Kathy) and we had the whole where do we clip the light thing all over again. We seemed to get things figured out, but Peter being Peter, sometimes he sleeps on the top bunk and sometimes he sleeps on the bottom bunk. He went for a long time on the top, and the compromise with the light was accepted. It was sort of hanging down and pointing up. He would read by indirect light, and he could turn it off without getting out of bed.

When he switched to the bottom bunk, we didn’t think we had issues at all. The light clipped onto the headboard and could be easily aimed at his book. The only problem is that there is not a lot of space between the lower bunk and upper bunk. For an adult, it seems very claustrophobic, but for a kid, it is alright.

Earlier this week, Peter came into our room in the middle of the night and said he bumped his eye on his light. Sometimes he falls asleep without turning his light off. We checked him over and there were no obvious burns or bruises. In the morning he said it still hurt and it was very sensitive to light. It turned out, after spending some time with the school nurse and a visit to the doctor, Peter had a soft tissue injury to the area above his eye. It healed as it should have in about 24 hours.

Since this light now seemed too big in the crowded space, especially as Peter gets bigger, I went to Staples and bought him this light:

This new light has a smaller lamp head and a plastic cover. I thought that this would be easier for Peter to manage. As it turns out, just because the goose neck is longer and sturdier, doesn’t mean that it is easier to get the light in a good position to shine on Peter’s book. And, since this new light has a halogen bulb, it gets hotter than a traditional incandescent bulb.

Peter has been using this light for a couple of days. I had clipped it up high on the bed, actually to the bottom of the upper bunk, to keep it out of his way, but he moved it down to his headboard. Even though it was smaller and plastic, I wanted to keep it away from his face.

Tonight, at about 2 in the morning, Peter wakes up Meg and tells her his light is smoking. Groggy from sleep, and without her contacts, she goes into his room to find his lamp resting on his pillow, smoldering. She separates the light from the pillow and pulls the pillow off the bed. She asks Peter to call me for help. Here is the pillow:

I come upstairs. I was asleep on the coach due to my continuing dysfunctional sleep habits. I walk into Peter’s room to billowing smoke from his pillow (I never thought I would ever use billow and pillow in the same sentence. They really don’t seem to go together). We stand there for a minute watching the smoke rise and fill the room. Finally we open the windows and I get some water to pour on the pillow.

At this point we realize the trauma is over and everyone is safe. The only loss is one pillow and one more light. For the next 30-45 minutes we hug Peter and talk about how he did the right thing and wasn’t he glad we keep talking about Fire Safety and Home Safety in Cub Scouts.

Both Meg and Peter continue to be a little nervous for what could have happened. Both of them didn’t think they would be able to go back to sleep, but they did. This weekend we will go out and get a fire extinguisher for upstairs, and we’ll look at fire escape ladders.

Here is Peter after what will forever be known in the Cohen family as the Pillow incident. In this picture it is hard to tell the bedhead from Peter’s singed hair.

Jeffrey L Cohen

Jeffrey L Cohen