Peanut has been having nightmares pretty regularly for a while now. Night terrors might be a better description, as she’ll wake up screaming and thrashing around, tears streaming down her face, calling me, even after I come into her room, where I have to fight against her bucking body to get her to open her eyes and see that I am already there. Sometimes, even after she’s seen me and talked to me a bit, she still keeps screaming and crying like the nightmare is continuing, and maybe, for her, it is, and it just looks to me like she’s awake.
String Bean also has her share of bad dreams, real and faked, which prompt her to call me into her room to reassure her. I can tell when they’re real by her description of them. If it’s real, she’s specific: “A bad witch with a red hat was trying to get me.” If it’s just a ruse to get me to come visit her when she doesn’t feel like sleeping, her description is more like, “Um, it was about a dragon. And a lion. And a bad man. And a…robot. Oh, and there was a monster. And it was raining. And there was…a…dinosaur.”
Some nights I get up three or four times to soothe the girls back to sleep from night terrors, nightmares, and pretend nightmares. By 4am or so, when I’m running on only a couple of hours of sleep, I become a lot less sympathetic to the whole thing. I give them both pep talks, that the bad dreams are only in their heads, that they are safe from real dangers because the dog downstairs will protect us, that I won’t let anything bad happen to them. And then I start threatening them, that I need some sleep if they don’t want a cranky mama the next day, and that I won’t be coming back no matter how many times they call me.
The other morning, String Bean proudly announced that she’d had a bad dream, but hadn’t called me in, because she wanted me to get some sleep. I gave her lots of praise and asked how she soothed herself, and she said, “I just turned my pillow over to the good side.” She then went on to explain to Peanut how, if you have bad dreams, it’s because your pillow’s on the “bad dream” side, and if you flip it over, you’ll have good dreams from then on. It was a very sweet and helpful concept, and I can’t figure out where she’d heard it, or if she could’ve made something like that up on her own, but wherever it came from, I’m grateful. Now if only Peanut’s pillow had a “no night terror” side, we’d be set.