Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nightmares....are not always on Elm Street

So Ethan has nightmares. I attribute it to his overactive imagination, and I know that it's not uncommon in kids his age. His latest, though, really stuck with him, and I have to document it.

At 4:30 a.m., Ethan came into our room and whispered, "Mom? Mom?"

"What?" I replied hazely. He'd already had two nightmares that evening that required I go to his room to calm him.

"I had a bad nightmare." He stated. He proceeded to tell me about it, but it was 4:30 in the morning. I wasn't listening. "Can I get in bed with you?"

"How 'bout I take you back to bed and tuck you in? I'll leave our door open and your door, so if you get scared, you can call for me."

"Okay," he said feebly. 

Fast forward to the ride home from preschool.

"You remember my nightmare last night, Mom?"

"I remember that you had a nightmare. Can you remind me what it was about?" I asked.

"Sure. It was a new nightmare I've never had before. Grandma said I had three chances to listen. We were at school. I had three chances to listen and if I didn't listen, she would send the sick after me."

"The sick?"

"Yeah. The sick. So I didn't listen three times and she said, 'What about the sick?' And the sick started coming after me and I couldn't get away," he explained. At this point, I was thoroughly confused.

"What is the sick?" I asked.

Waving his arms wide, he said, "The sick is a big, black cloud with a mean, angry face that comes after you. If you touch it, you get sick. If it touches you, you get sick. It was chasing after me and was about to touch me. It was the worstest nightmare I've ever had!"

"Wow! That sounds SO scary!" I said.

"It was so scary. I was screaming in my dream. And I didn't know my mind put the sick in my dream, so I couldn't shake my head to get rid of it. I had nightmares all night. I tried to think of something good to dream about, but it didn't work and because I didn't know my mind had thought up the sick, I couldn't get rid of it!"

While listening to his dream and the vivid detail by which he recalls them is fascinating, there were also a few things I picked up in this tale.
  1. He apparently hates to be sick and I think his recent strep throat incident played a role here. He had strep for at least two weeks before we discovered it; it must have made him feel pretty crummy. 
  2. He understands that dreams are in his mind and has tried to develop a way to make the bad ones go away. I asked his grandma if she told him to shake the dreams out when he was up there last week. She said no. I asked where he got that from, and he replied, "nowhere. I came up with it myself to try to get the nightmares away." The fact that he said his mind put the sick there and he didn't know it to get rid of it is fascinating to me. How does a little four-year old understand that his mind is the creator of his dreams, and more to the point, how has he thought through the process of trying to control that aspect of his mind? I mean, I know the kid is smart, but wow!
  3. He specifically said, "It was a new nightmare I've never had before." This statement leads me to believe he has recurring nightmares and that he's figuring out how to control them. He also said he tried to think of something good to dream about but it didn't work. I wonder how many times it DOES work. How many times does he have a bad dream, shake his head to get it out, and think of something good to dream about and ACTUALLY do it? 
Nevertheless, Ethan drew a picture of the sick and we hung it up in his room with the idea that if he sees it and gets it out of his mind onto paper, he may not dream about it again. He slept like a dream last night. 


  1. Poor kid! I have nightmares still to this day off and on, it's strange!

    When I was a kid I had recurring nightmares all the time, isn't it strange how that happens?

  2. He is really something. He never ceases to amaze me. I was thinking maybe a dream catcher would be nice for his room. I also find that when I eat certain foods I dream more but I haven't written it down so I don't know what it is yet!