When I was little, I had a recurring nightmare that went like this: someone tells me a story about a clown who’s been stealing families, and whenever he takes one, he leaves a big black X. Then I go home and find a big black X on my house and my family isn’t there. Then I go into the kitchen, and there’s the clown standing by the sink with a plate of cookies. The clown touches the cookies, and they turn into blood (seriously!) and disappear down the sink.
Leaving aside the fact that I’m apparently equally traumatized by the loss of family and the loss of cookies, there is this: I take nightmares pretty seriously. If I have one, or if someone around me has one, I’m completely shaken.
I’ve been thinking about it this week because John had a bad one the other night. Shrieking for mom or dad in what sounded like a desperate cry at two a.m. Matt got there in a heartbeat and John spent the rest of the night with us (and the cat). He went back to sleep pretty quickly, but I was awake for a while, thinking about what used to scare me and wondering what might have scared him.
It’s funny to think that little people can have such serious frights. I don’t think we give them enough credit for the depth of thought or feeling that they have from this age and even younger. John has told me recently that he wonders what it feels like to die, that he wants to practice living away from us before he really moves out, and that he’s saving his money for something that he’ll probably really want to buy when he’s in college. He comes up with all of this on his own, so far be it from me to think that his nighttime fears are anything but serious and complex, even though he still calls them Night Bears.
The next morning, John said that he remembered coming to our room (including a return trip for a water bottle) but didn’t remember what the dream was about. “I don’t remember” is also his go to response for things that he doesn’t want to talk about, so it’s hard to say how much he does or does not recall about the night. I hope he really does remember only the comfort instead of the initial fright. He’ll have plenty of time to worry later on. And nobody wants clowns and bloody cookies lingering in the corners of their mind.