Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Scary Dreams

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.


Lisa said...

I remember being 9 and watching All Dogs Go to Heaven at the theater. That was the first time I really understood that everyone dies, and like Evan I had a really hard time sleeping for weeks. It's good that he's been able to tell you what's been bothering him (I don't think that I ever told my parents). Other than love and time, I don't know what else there is that can comfort a kid in that realization. It sounds like you're doing a great job.

Unknown said...

Okay. It's time for the little white lie. You tell him that Mommy and Daddy ain't dyin' anytime soon. You PROMISE him you're going to be there for everything that happens up to and including the day he has a child of his own. And the reason is because you love him and Daddy loves him and nobody ain't goin' nowhere. Period.

If there is ANYTHING that boy needs to believe in - it's you and Patrick. So you gotta pinky swear.

Issa said...

Aw friend, I'm so sorry. I dream these conversations. It's definitely the age. My oldest has some of the same issues. What happens to us if you die? Where do we go? Who do we live with? What about this and this and this. Sigh.

With her, I try not to have the conversations at night, because then she doesn't sleep. My six year old on the other hand likes to talk at night, all snuggled up in bed in the dark.

I think each kid reacts differently and at different times. You know what I thought when I read that you were on the road? Sing. When I can't pull over and one of my kids is crying, I sing. Songs that I sang them as newborns. Songs that they love. I sing.

Hugs friend. I hope you all have a great holiday.

Issa said...

Uh that was dread these conversations.

I need a nap. For a week.

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

Poor kiddo. I hope his fears and nightmares let up. Those are scary thoughts. It's good that you guys are talking about it though.

We were reading a Thanksgiving story and it said that a pilgrim died on the Mayflower, and Noah just fixated on that. I had to try my darndest to distract him with something else. I know that I can't sugarcoat everything forever, but maybe at least for a couple more years, I hope.

nmaha said...

This is a tough one. My brother, who's an adult, still worries that my parents may leave us permanently one day. As you get older, I guess it gets more real. But at 8, a child obviously does not know how to handle this fact of life. I feel for you dear.

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