A few weeks ago Nora expressed some concern about going to sleep. She told me that she doesn’t like going to bed because she just lies in bed thinking bad thoughts before she is able to fall asleep. She also admitted to having bad dreams.
Saddened, I asked her why she hadn’t said anything to me before that point about the trouble she’d been having. I told her that she needed to talk to her dad or to me when she was worried about things like this. I also told her to think about good, happy thoughts before she fell asleep.
“I can’t, mommy,” she said. “My body just won’t let me.” (insert sad face here)
This from a kid who has twirled her hair, gently picked at her lips, and/or rubbed her eyebrows anxiously as she’s fallen asleep, since she was a toddler. This from a kid who appears to be both contemplating the world’s problems as well as coming up with ways to solve them, all before 8:00 p.m. each night. Our ever-thinking, always-wondering child. A product of her mother, for sure.
I asked Nora to talk a little bit about some of the bad thoughts and dreams that she had been having. This is what she told me:
“I have two bad dreams, mommy. The first one is…well…I can’t really explain it. Something eats me. It’s like a deer or something, and it just eats me. And the second one is, I get runned over by a car. And I just lay there in the road and there’s no one to help me.”
It was extremely hard for me to not bust out laughing after her first admission. Eaten by a deer? She’s kidding, right? But I felt so sad for her after she revealed the scary contents of her second dream. I wondered: Where does this come from? From talking to my niece and nephew? (They are sometimes a concerning source of content much-too-mature for my four-year-old). I mean, I do talk from time to time about why we need to have green and red lights on the road as well as wear seat belts, so that we can be safe, but don’t get into much more detail than that.
Hmmm….There was a day earlier this summer a colleague/friend came to the house to pick up some cloth diapers we can’t use anymore. She had a cast on her arm so we explained truthfully that the friend had been hit by a car, but that she was going to be OK. Maybe that’s where?
I did a little reading online about bad dreams and nightmares. It seems very normal and age-appropriate for Nora to be dealing with this now. Apparently, once little ones realize that there are real world dangers out there—eaten by a deer, maybe, not so much—they start to dream about potential hazards. Life changes can also trigger these imagined fears (me going back to work, Nora starting school again—all things we’d been recently talking about).
We spent a good deal of time talking about how dreams aren’t real although they can seem to be, and can be very scary. I told her that we were going to start saying prayers again at night, something we used to do, but had forgotten to do for some time. I’ve found that this is also a really good way to get Nora to be reflective about the day as well as teach empathy.
We run through all the “God bless” everybodies. Lately, it’s gone from mentions of specific, individual names to “God Bless every human on the earth.” Girlfriend already figured out the benefit of shortcuts.
Then we say special prayers. Things like, “God help Grandma’s knee feel better, and Titi’s burns to heal, and Grandpa’s sickness to go away.”
Next, we mention all the things for which we are grateful.
Then, mommy likes to add a plug for good behavior. “God help Nora and Frances to be kind to one another, and to be helpful, and to make good choices.” Lord knows, we need all the help we can get!
Finally, we ask for sweet and silly and funny dreams. “And, if we should happen to have bad dreams, may they pass quickly, and may we be reminded that they’re not real, and we only need to cuddle up with mommy or daddy to make them go away.”
We’ve been going on a couple of weeks now with no bad dreams. The power of prayer! Or positive suggestion. Or good energy. Or a combination of all three. Whatever it is, it’s nice to be participating in a nightly ritual once again where we are able to think outside of ourselves and our own needs.
Then, this weekend, there was this:
“Mom! I had a funny dream last night. Want to hear it?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Well, you and daddy were in it. And your friends. And we were all outside. You and daddy were on the back patio. And your friends were on their back patio, across the yard.”
Then she glanced toward the window, beyond which our back patio stood. Then she looked across to where our older, white-haired neighbors live—Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty—and a confused look came across her face as she was trying to recall the exact details of the dream.
“Wait a minute. Was that your friends in the dream, or Mr. Larry? No, not Mr. Larry. It was friends. There was a mom and a dad friend. And the mom had hair like…it was short and blond. She looked like Tella’s Aunt Amy. Wait, was that Aunt Amy? I mean, Baby Lila’s mommy?”
I jumped in then to confirm, “Baby Lila’s mom is Aunt Amy.”
“Oh. Yeah. Aunt Amy then. Yeah, your friends, the mom one, looked just like her.”
“That’s it?” I said, after a long pause and expectant look from Nora. “That was the end of the dream?”
Just like that, bad dreams be gone (at least for now). And weird-ass nonsensical ones take their place. Sounds about right to me!