Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bad dreams and comforting words

A couple weeks ago, I was awakened around 4 am by Agent M yelling "Turn on the lights!" as he did just that, running into my room and diving under my bedsheet. "Hit the deck" would have been just as appropriate I thought to myself, as I woke with a start and tried to pull myself out of the dream I had been enjoying.

"What's wrong sweetie?", I groggily asked, trying to make sense out of why I was suddenly back in my room, no longer enjoying an adventure on a boat with Jason Satham and slightly disappointed that I would not be continuing that dream.

"I had a dream I was at Nana and Baba's house and I had a toy and it moved.", he whimpered, as he curled into a ball and pulled the striped cotton sheet over his head.

He was shivering and puffy face, cheeks red and looking to be fighting back tears. I pulled my too-small-to-cover-my-whole-bed blanket off of me and over him, figuring he needed it more than I did at the moment. He rolled over to face me, tucking his arms tight against himself. 

This is not a new fear, unfortunately. For years, on and off, he has been hesitantly fearful around statues, dolls, and generally anything else that looks like it could "come alive". Not so much that it's a constant fear, but it is something that tends to comes up when he's not feeling well or is over tired.

So there he was, scared looking and shivering next to me. I put my arm against his and wiggled my fingers into his hand.  I wanted to say something motheringly and wise to soothe him, calm his fears.

"It's bright", I said, peeking open one eye. Then realizing I probably looked like a pirate, I tried to blink both eyes open. So much for wise words.

I remembered my own horrible nightmares, the ones that played almost consistently from late elementary school until I was in college. Sometimes they were little and just left a creepy residue through the waking hours of the day, but as I got older they got to the point where I would keep myself up to the point of exhaustion with the hope to not dream at all. I kept them mostly to myself, because I had felt silly for being so scared of something my own mind was inflicting on me.

"I've had bad dreams too", I stage whispered to Agent M.

"What were they about?", he quietly asked, the puffiness and shivers beginning to fade away.

"Yucky stuff, that wasn't real but that my imagination made up." I didn't see any reason to go into the details with him. But I did tell him that he was safe and that dreams sometimes are just our minds keeping busy while we sleep. That our dreams are sometimes just something we've thought about, that our mind decides to think about a little more while we rest. That it can be helpful to talk about your dreams, the bad and the good. The scary and the silly. Sharing the bad can help you remember it's not real, and sharing the good can make you smile with hope that they could be real. I was glad that he had come to me for comfort, and I wanted him to know he always could.

I was gently tracing his hair line and cheeks with my fingertips at this point. A favorite soother since he was an infant. Soon he was sleeping again and, I hoped, on his way back to better dreams.

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