Driving in the van on the way home from watching The Wizard of Oz in Chicago on Sunday, I decided to gently probe Evan's brain about his nightmare issues. Evan's always had a highly active sleeping brain and it's gotten progressively worse for him as far as nighttime fears go. I understand all too well about vivid dreams and night fears. There isn't a night that goes by without an entire novel in my brain. But Evan's fears have gotten to the point that he isn't able to fall asleep in his room without us and is ALWAYS in our room come morning. Our bed, it's getting crowded.
So I began with little questions about what he's afraid will happen if he sleeps alone. What exactly does he dream about? Is there something we can do to avoid such scary pictures? Is it all the video games and scary movies? What is encouraging these nightmares?!?
When I found out what it is that scares him the most, I was a bit taken aback. It's not the monsters or war games that makes him afraid of the dark. It's not man-eating dinosaurs or robots from space that has him crying to sleep in our room. What scares my son the most is the thought that someone will separate him from me and Patrick. His words, not mine.
What do I do with that? Monsters, I can handle. But how do I help him deal with something that actually CAN happen?
He's afraid that something bad will happen and he'll be all alone. He's worried that tornadoes or car accidents or sicknesses will kill us off. His 8 year old brain has reached that stage where he understands that life isn't certain or guaranteed and that ALL people die. Though I thought I had tried my hardest to be up-front and relaxed about death and uncertainties about tomorrow and embracing today's blessings, he is still suffering the same agony that I suffered at his age; That all children MUST suffer in order to truly comprehend mortality.
It still sucks. Especially when your son is now bawling in the back seat on I-55 and you can't pull over. Especially when he's hiding his little head in his hands and begging to just go home instead of getting a milkshake from McDonald's. When he passes on milkshakes, you know it's serious.
I need to remember that each child of mine handles things differently. If I want to have a conversation like that with JUSTIN, I do it in the van to eliminate the extra distractions that a house provides. But Evan NEEDS the distractions to keep his mind from over-focusing on the scariness of what we're discussing. Evan needs physical contact that can't be given while you're driving at 60 mph.
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