Monday, January 11, 2016

the stuff of nightmares.

Last week, my friend mentioned that her son has started waking up in the middle of the night in tears. She wondered if he might be having bad dreams. It's hard to know for sure, since explaining to toddlers what dreams are and then asking them to tell you about their dreams is a bit of a mindwarp-clustermess. But it makes sense that we'd see an uptick in nightmares at this age. Two-and-a-half-year-olds have typically already gone through some major physical and speech developmental leaps in their lifetimes; now is the time (at least, one of the times) for huge cognitive advances, which necessitates a lot more mental processing time, which probably doesn't stop during sleep, which could lead to increased dream activity, including "bad" dreams.

Yeah, I have no research handy to back this up, and I don't recall learning about dream development patterns while hemorrhaging [that word took me like four times to spell correctly] money to my friendly local university during graduate school for early childhood education...but it makes sense, right? Either way, I hadn't had any similar experiences with Rowan and nightmares to share with my friend. I always ask Rowie about her dreams, but I couldn't tell if she has any clue what I'm talking about or not.

Until today.

My poor sweet girl woke up from her nap crying, then shouting, then screaming. I took the stairs two at a time and burst into her room, where she was a sobbing heap in her crib. I scooped her up and cuddled her, asking what was wrong, but she just cried. We rocked in our chair and I rubbed her back, telling her that sometimes we're happy when we wake up, and sometimes we're sad. That quieted her down, and I asked her if she'd had a dream that made her feel so sad. "Yeah," she sniffled. "What was it about?" I said, but she couldn't say. I'd heard her wail, "No two more minutes, no two more minutes!" on my way up the stairs, so I ventured a guess. "Were you having a sad dream about two more minutes?"

She pulled back and looked at me. "Yeah, about two more minutes!" She burrowed into my chest and mumbled, "I not want two more minutes."

Pretty sure this is straight from the What NOT To Do Parenting Handbook*, but I laughed out loud. A lot. Seriously? My baby girl's worst nightmare is being told she has two more minutes before having to do something? It happens a lot during our days - I give her two-minute warnings before undesirable activities, mostly because I maintain vague hope that the warnings will help with transitions like they did when she was a young toddler. Now, they tend to trigger her...apparently, to the point of nightmares.

And all I could do was laugh about that. Laugh, and be so unbelievably thankful that the hardest thing my daughter has to endure in her daily life is being told it's almost time to get a new diaper, or clean up her toys, or take a bath.

I snuggled Rowan close to me in our rocking chair, breathing deep her sweet post-nap scent (my favorite smell is freshly-wakened Rowie). You know, the newborn and young infant days were so tough for me; my baby wouldn't eat and then wouldn't sleep, and that sucked. I very much wanted to punch the goddamn faces of people who told me then that they wished they could back to those "easy" baby days. But...I do see it now, how comparatively easy it was to entertain her back then and (once we got the whole eating and sleeping things down) to keep her happy and calm. More so, though, I look at her these days and see the bigger, scarier issues on the not-so-distant horizon. School, with bad teachers and bullies and - you know, mass shootings. Puberty, with mean girls and violent boys and self-loathing. College, which appears to be impossible to get into and then impossible to pay for.

And so when my two-year-old had a bad dream today about having to stop one fun activity to move on to another fun activity, I sat with her, rocking and soothing and kissing her, and I counted my blessings. She does not lack food, clothing, or a roof over her head. She does not know the sounds of a bomb or a gunshot or a smacking hand. Her worst nightmare is having developmentally appropriate boundaries peacefully enforced, and for that, I feel like the luckiest mama in the world. I may not be anywhere near ready to give her wings, but roots? I am working damn hard on fostering those. And every once in a while, I get a sign that they're flourishing.

*For the record, if anyone wants to actually write the What NOT To Do Parenting Handbook, I'd be all over that shizz.

:: Post-script ::

:: And these children that you spit on
   As they try to change their worlds
   Are immune to your consultations
   They're quite aware of what they're going through
   Ch- ch- ch- ch- changes
   (Turn and face the strange) ch- ch- changes
   Don't tell them to grow up or out of it ~

          - David Bowie, "Changes" ::

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