I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now? –John Lennon
Right on, John. It’s not overly Jungian to assert that most childhood fears (and monsters) just morph into grown up fears (and monsters). Perhaps the Ambivalent Agnostic should read more of Jung? Nevermind, I’m kind of tired of being in my own head so much.
Back to my point–
I am sympathetic to the nightmares of my children. I almost never say, “there’s nothing to be scared of, monsters aren’t real”. One, because I’ve been a 26 year old, staring at a shadow in the woods convinced it was a burning cat. Turned out to be a crazy pile of pine straw, with a candy wrapper in the middle that was catching the street light reflection just right, but that’s not really the point. I was an adult (in theory) and it still took logic several long moments to overcome my panic. Now imagine being 4, or 2, and having the same “vision”. Yeah, pretty sucky, hunh? And two, because monsters are real– they just don’t usually live in the closet.
I also still remember the two most common of my childhood nightmares. One involved an old couple, marionette doll-esque, in Victorian-style dress, chasing me through a dark attic. I started having that one when I was about 5, and it lasted for years. The other one involved walking down an aisle, toward a coffin containing my dead father in his Dress Blues. That one ended when it came true.
And do you remember staying paralytically still in your bed, so that the shadow monster from the closet wouldn’t notice you? I do. And I still can’t sleep without having my feet covered by a sheet (or socks) because of the nightmare about the rat who ate my toes. That one was a babysitter’s fault– one really should look behind the couch before watching a horror movie while sitting for a small child. And 5-year-old me learned not to be so nosy. Well, not at all– but I should have. I wish I could remember which movie it was so that I could watch it as an adult and be less freaked out. Kind of like I did with that Twilight Zone… oh, I’m so lying. Shatner and the troll-monster still makes my armpits sweat.
So, Mom has a seriously overactive imagination, and Mom still has nightmares. Which is why Mom doesn’t get too mad about kids that show up in the bed at all hours. Kids that sleep nicely are allowed to stay. Kids that jump up and down on her head are sent back to bed.
When I was pregnant with Zach, I painted –>Hey stay with me– there’s a point to this a bunch of cheerful sea creatures on the walls.
Me, the opposite of perfectionist, actually mourned the “whale” for about 6 hours. It’s funny…now. That night it was all about the hormonally-charged psychosis of 7-months pregnant, ADHD woman. And the husband who was hiding from her. The giant Stoned Whale who Lived Behind the Door remained and ongoing joke between JB and I. And later when Z started referring to it as a goldfish (of the Cracker variety), well that fit, too.
We’ve had nightmares here and there, but about a month ago they were happening almost nightly. No 4 year old should have bags like that– only the parents of those 4 year olds. And the constant night wakings were making everyone cranky. One evening, after he and I just had a No Good Really Bad Day, he finally broke down and told me what was wrong. Seriously–the internalization of his angst is so not something he gets from me. Ahem, JB.
But it was this night that I found myself with him in the dark, looking around their room from his perspective from the bed. Poor kids–both of them. As it turns out, the un-curtained windows (I’m doing this thing with the curtains–for about 6 months now) let’s just enough street light glow in through the blinds to make the white parts of the sea creature eyes glow. Eight pairs of glowing eyeballs. Yeah, that’s not at all terrifying.
The worst offender? The most menacing of the floating-eyed monsters? Yup, it’s Stoned Goldfish.
/Wincing/ The one that lives right next to the door from which terrified child must escape to seek safety of Parental Bed.
When we repainted, Zach helped. Well, he helped paint over all of the eyes, then he left to watch a cartoon. Can I just print these memories out for their therapist?
Parents– save yourself. Go into your kid’s room, turn off the lights and let your internal 4 year old out for a look-see.