Monday, July 9, 2012

Our 2-year-old's first nightmare

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about waking my wife up in the middle of the night as I loudly disciplined Addison. In my sleep. I made some conjectures about what Addison dreams about. Perhaps she does dream that she's a dinosaur, but I am still trying to gather concrete evidence of that. The best I can say is that sometimes she looks at me like I'm a ham bone. 

I wish could be a dinosaur in my dreams. Usually I'm just myself, but moving in slow motion, which is tedious and incredibly frustrating. Especially frustrating when you're trying to catch and discipline a toddler who squirms like a slippery fish. Even more frustrating, though less tedious, when I'm being chased by a dinosaur and I move like I'm wading through molasses. I'm not the only one with these dinosaur dreams, am I? I wonder what Freud would say . . .

Addison was as young as six months old when we first decided she was having nightmares -- she'd wake up sweaty and disoriented, not noticing me when I came in to soothe her. Her cries would be sharp and urgent, and she'd sometimes fall back asleep while I rubbed her back, without having ever looked at me. We always wondered what she was dreaming about, and hoped it wasn't anything too terrible. These weren't frequent occurrences, but just often enough to make me question my parenting abilities.

Although I'd never wish a nightmare on my daughter, I'm a little less anxious now because we've concretely identified the first nightmare that Addison has been able to express to us. It didn't involve monsters or explosions or bad men. It didn't seem to involve anything that I maybe shouldn't have let her see on TV (previews for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, anyone?).

I woke up a couple of nights ago to little whimpers and pitiful cries coming out of the monitor that I keep by my pillow. Trying not to wake up Lindsay, I slipped into Addison's room and reached down to bring her into my arms. It took a while before she was calm enough to tell me anything, but when she did, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Her dream involved a certain kleptomaniac cow that just couldn't keep its grubby hooves off of Addison's stuff. Haltingly through her sobs, she explained that the bovine intruder had tried to take away the cardboard playhouse that I had constructed for her just days before. What do you think? For a two-year-old, is that sort of thing just as traumatic as the terrible things that I imagine as an adult? Is that her equivalent of getting eaten by a dinosaur?

Anyway, here's a video of her retelling the story, several days after the fact. I've asked her on subsequent nights if she thought about anything while she was sleeping, and it's always some variation of this same dream: