Night Mares

As any parent out there knows, the older your child gets the less it seems they need you. The more children learn about the world, the fewer things about it frighten them. When they learn that shadows are nothing more than the absence of light, the monsters lurking in them seem to disappear. When they realize that there really isn’t a goblin hiding under the bed, they call your name out less in the middle of the night hoping to God you have a flashlight with you. When they understand they will see you again after school lets out, the cries when you drop them off seem fewer and more far between. While it’s great to watch your child mature and develop, to become their own person that is slowly but surely building their arsenal to someday take on the world on their own, this growing up phase can be bittersweet for us parents.

I don’t know if you want to say that we feel left behind. More so I think we don’t like the idea that we are slowly but surely being stripped of the role as the all-knowing all-saving protector of this precious life, a life that looks to us when the rest of the world doesn’t make sense and is filled with dangers around every corner. I know, I know, selfish, right?

I get especially nostalgic about this when I think about the nightmares my daughter had when she was little. She had them often. We’re talking screaming in the night, trying to escape the hell her bed had become, while never fully awake nightmares. So to help her get to sleep I used to lay with her in bed and we’d talk about all the beautiful dreams we were going to have that night and made plans for how we were going to meet up. We’d make gloriously detailed plans about what we were going to do when we saw each other in this wonderful dreamscape. The setting would vary a bit but we always chose horses to be a part of our joint dream.

Sometimes they’d be the everyday horses we see grazing in the fields now. She and I would choose what color our horses would be; the hair, the mane, even the color of the eyes. Then we’d pick out where we were going to meet. Oftentimes our destination was a peaceful riverbank where we’d enjoy a picnic, our horses neighing next to us before we would take off on a ride along the countryside next to the bright blue water. Other times we’d be creative and imagine ourselves flying on the back of majestic winged Pegasus horses. We could see the colors of the feathers in our minds and wax poetic on where we’d fly to.

black horse white mane

one of our favorite color schemes

Once all the details were settled I’d hug her tightly, slip out of bed, and we’d say, “See you there!” to each other as I turned the light off and sent her to a restful sleep. It really did seem to be an effective way of taking her mind off the fear she had about possible bad dreams creeping in. Sometimes worrying about having nightmares can be worse than having the nightmare itself and ends up being a twisted sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

My daughter brought this memory up just the other day as something she had treasured…and it warmed my heart thinking about this little game we used to play, back when she still needed me to protect her from the Boogeyman.  At the same time it also made me a little sad that she’s certainly old enough now where she doesn’t need me to join her in her dreams anymore. But even though I’ve lost that, I know she’ll always need me for something else and while it might not be galloping through the stars on mythical beasts, I’m more than happy to help her cross through her valley of fears in any way she needs.

43 thoughts on “Night Mares

  1. Hi Wendy, thanks for following Writers’ Rumpus. I know what you are feeling about letting go as a parent. The best creative expression of it I’ve ever found comes from the obscure musical Children of Eden (from the composer better known for Wicked). Here’s a link to “The Hardest Part of Love (is Letting Go). The sound is a little tinny, but you the singing is good and you can understand all the words.

  2. It’s so very important to be with your children when they suffer any sort of nightmare. I couldn’t stress this enough if I tried.

    • I agree, I think it helps to comfort them. And I also believe that worry over nightmares, especially with my daughter, tends to make the nightmares come because they’re stressed out at bed time — so relaxation techniques and comforting bedtime rituals can help. At least it did for her, so I was very thankful.

  3. What a beautiful memory for your daughter. I have very fond memories of my mum ‘coming in’ every night when I was a child. She’d lie next to me and tell me stories about when she was a little girl or we’d talk about my little brothers. It was the best feeling in the world.

    Now when I lie in bed trying to go to sleep, I think, ‘I wish my mum would ‘come in’!

  4. Now my children have grown up and moved away I find they still need us, but in different ways. I love seeing them out in the world making their lives. When they hit a stumbling stone I still wish I could kiss it better, but overall I am glad they are independent and decent humans.

    • Absolutely agree! The whole point of parenthood (if you’re doing it right) is to create independent, productive, and caring human beings. It’s still a bittersweet transition though and I wax nostalgic more and more to when mine were small. But I could not be more proud of them as they are today.

  5. I’m 23 with no kids, but I do see this happening to my mom and even the parents of my friends….and the thought of this happening to me when I’m a lot older with kids actually scares me a bit..and I like your genuineness in this

    • Thanks! We do miss being needed. The positive side to that is our kids (I’m sure it’s the same with you and your mom!) need us for completely different reasons and issues as they get older. It’s good that things change, but it can be sad too.

  6. My daughter has never really liked cuddling ever since she was born. She just started showing signs of dreaming, but even after a bit of reassurance, she would rather be put back in her own bed. I’ll admit, I loved it when she was sick–which I did not know she was at first. She just wanted to curl up next to me on the couch and lay her head down while I rubbed her back or played with her hair (I enjoyed it!). I certainly don’t want her to be sick in order to get cuddle time, but I hope the experience has opened her horizons. She is just so independent and while I admire it, I find it difficult because I just want to hold her as much as I can!

    • I know what you mean! Hopefully seeing the comfort she receives when she’s sick will prompt her to seek it out with you other times. Some kids just don’t like the attention I guess. It’s hard on a parent though. It does seem like kids do want to cuddle the most when they’re ill.

    • Thanks! We enjoyed coming up with the details and talking about it so much that she really forgot to be afraid to go to sleep. I’m just gratified that she remembers it and it’s a lovely memory of our “dream sharing,” not of the nightmares.

  7. I remember an important turning point when I was a child, when I had a nightmare about enormous snakes besieging the house – and then I picked up a chair and bashed one and they all slithered away. It was a great confidence-builder.
    My own grandkids kids seem to have benefited from a character in one of my books – a Knight Mare called Daydream. Something about the absurdity has a de-mystifying effect.

  8. My heart was so warmed hearing your interaction with your daughter. It’s beautiful and fantastic and I wish to God I’d had a mom like you. My younger sister and I played a game called “Let’s pretend” when we were young as a way to escape our life and it sounds like what you and your daughter did. So glad to know this. Children need to feel safe.

    • Thank you for the very kind words! I’m so sorry that you had a childhood in which you felt the need to escape…no child should go through that. You’re right children should feel safe in their home and with their family…the should feel safe everywhere actually. I’m glad that you and your sister had a way to endure though. I’m anxious to read through your blog and I hope that you will enjoy mine.

      • I will indeed and am delighted that you are going to read mine. It’s been a challenge (most things in my life are, so no strange phenomenon here lol). ❤

  9. Wendy, Wendy, how do you imagine that you have lost that connection? It is there, maybe not consciously, although ever there. Beside it being a remarkable memory, I personally think it shows amazing parenting as well. Teaching a child, through patience, by fantasy story-telling how to control their thoughts and thereby their fears before the blanket of darkness falls and sleep sweeps us away from this world, that dear lady, is a miracle in its own regard.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with the world 🙂

    • Thank you for the kinds words, you make me blush! I enjoy your writing, it is so elegant and insightful. I agree with you that I think it helps children to know they can influence their own thoughts and in that way control a bit of their own personal world.

      • Well, I know that my newest addition, is quite a long read. However I do discuss this very subject, thoughts determine emotion. To me it is a way of life, I meet many nay-sayers along the path and most of them never really get control over the chaos up there, which leaves me sniggering at the side lines sometimes.

        Many thanks for your compliments. I do have a soft spot in my self confidence when it comes to exposing my writings to the world, therefore I really enjoy feedback in all its forms.

      • I do hope you have one inner voice and not multiple, or I will have to call the doctor! 😉

        I think our inner voice can be dormant in such a way that we are out of touch with it. Disconnected. We do not realize that we are out of balance, because society teaches us that everything we need is available on the outside of our bodies.

        There is your food, bottled water, ready-cut-fruit in plastic, furniture from giants like IKEA, we live in chicken coops which we call “apartments”, car, bicycle, road, work and a hobby. You are lucky when you have a partner, house, dog, baby or two and a holiday once or twice a year. Luck can be translated to your netto income versus what you can do with it.

        We’re basically taught that everything of value, of import to us exists only on the outside. Even if it is people who are actually important like family and friends.

        There is not enough focus on contact with the most important friend you will ever have, yourself. Or as one of my heroes would say:

        “Your life is yours alone, Rise up and live it”.

  10. What a wonderful post! Although I am not a mom…yet, and I don’t remember having really bad dreams when I was little, I do have other good memories of times spent with my mom. What a beautiful connection, you and your daughter share. What a creative and wonderful way to help your daughter when she needed it.
    Enjoy your day 🙂

    • Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. I’m glad that you have good memories with your Mom…I hope they come to you at odd times and make you smile! I think that’s what happened with my daughter when she was remembering the nightmares/dream sharing cause the subject just came up out of the blue one day. I’m lucky to have a very close bond with my kids…I treasure it.

      • The memories with both my parents often make me smile. It takes me right back in time. And reading your post made me think of them. They live in a different country, but we try to stay connected as much as possible.
        Kids grow so fast…I am very touched by the bond you have with your children and the memories you create with them. I wish you many happy days ahead , full of wonderful memories. I am really glad to have connected with you here through WordPress. Thanks for following! 🙂

  11. I used to have three very distressing nightmares when I was little. The first is the least frightening, and in it I would fall off something like a step stool, and suddenly in my dream, I’m 30,000 feet up and all I see beneath me is the patchwork quilt of farmland. The second dream I had, which manifested physically was where I had fallen asleep, and a corner of my blanket was touching the floor. Ants crawled up the blanket and onto my bed, until you couldn’t see me beneath all the ants crawling all over me. *shudders* I would do a lot of scratching as a result of that dream. The most frightening dream I had, though, was one where it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything, not even my own hands in front of my face. But I could tell that I was holding something in my hands. As the dream progressed, the thing I was holding grew larger and larger until I knew it was going to crush me. My parents never tried to allay my fears. There was never any comfort. I was left to deal with my own terror, alone. It’s so wonderful that you took an active role in helping your child overcome her fears, and pave the way for better dreams. I’ve done my best to do that for all of my boys. It does hurt when you recognize that they need you less and less. Perhaps that’s the nature of motherhood, because I don’t think fathers feel quite the same let-down of them not being needed as much. I will say this of my own childhood neglect and abuse. My parents gave me an excellent example of how not to treat my children. By giving my sons the things I lacked in my own childhood, I’m able to give those things back to myself. I have no doubt that you’ve raised your daughter to be as wonderful a mother as you are. 🙂

    • Thank you for the kind words. I’m so sorry that you didn’t have the safety and comfort of caring parents when you were a child. I’m very glad though that you were able to take the positive out of it and become such a wonderful example for your own boys! You’ve made an excellent point that you’re giving back to yourself as well. I wouldn’t have looked at it that way for myself but that is really such an insightful point. Your boys are lucky to have someone with such a giving heart for their Mom!

    • My dreams when I was a kid have stayed the same now that I’m adult. It’s always me being chased by something. I can sometimes see who or what it is but more often than not, I can’t. I just know something is there and I have to run and hide and get away from whatever it is. The scenery changes in every dream, but the concept stays the same. I hate it.

      • Those kinds of dreams are the worst. You can’t identify something concrete, so you don’t know what it is you’re afraid of. By not giving you that specific person or thing, the fear is made that much more vibrant. If you only knew what it was, you’d know how to overcome it. I don’t have those kinds of dreams much anymore, but when I do, I hate it. I wake up with a scream on my lips, and sweat on my brow.

      • Exactly! Can’t really fight what you can’t see. And in the dream, the knowledge or feeling that I must get away is overwhelmingly clear so it’s a really scary dream even without knowing all the details.

  12. Hi, Wendy. Lovely post and blog you’ve got going here. My grown (almost) kids have needed me so much I’ve found mostly relief in their independence. But now my wife and I have a grandson to fuss over. It’s all good. Thanks for checking out my weird blog. Peace and best, John

    • Thanks for reading! I love dogs too — I love all animals really. I tend to rant on animal issues more than I should (just see my Rants section!). I have a yorkie and three cats right now and I’m always on the lookout for new additions. I saw ducks today at the farmer’s co-op and if I can figure out how to build a coop, I may expand my pet horizons. : )

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