Parenting

SmartyPants' Nightmares

Last night I finally discovered a new topic about which to write. Between Smiley's two nighttime feedings (which the doctor says are unnecessary, but which I say are unavoidable if sleep is actually a priority), I heard the shrill cry of Smartypants in bed.

I imagine the scenario is similar for any parent. The shriek sends vibrations up your spine.

If you're awake, you vault up the stairs into the child's bedroom. If you're asleep, you stumble blindly through the nighttime, bouncing off furntiure, stepping on cats, tripping on any number of random obstacles as your heart races from the sudden waking.

Sometimes the child is awake, eyes wide, sitting up in bed and short of breath. Worse are the times when the child is not awake, calling your name as some unidentifiable terror haunts her sleep. All you can really do is lay beside her, running a finger through her tangled hair, and whisper reassurances that everyone is alright, that you'll protect her, that it's just a dream. And you search your memories, wishing you could remember how you came to understand, so many years earlier, that dreams weren't real, that nightmares, though frightening, were harmless.

But even could you remember, it's doubtful you could explain it so well that a crying, trembling three year old, clinging to you in the darkness of her bedroom at night, would understand and find comfort in the explanation. No, the only comforting qualities you possess are your warmth and your voice. Thankfully, they are often enough.

Smartypants would later tell me all about her nightmare. Seems a giant light bulb from the closet was flying around her room, buzzing toward her head. She couldn't escape, and when finally she opened her eyes, she was terrified to discover it was still there in her room. I explained to her that she saw the closet light, the one she always asks me to leave on when she goes to bed.

"I could turn it off," I said, "if it frightens you."

"That's okay, daddy. I want it on. If it flies around again I won't be scared. I'll just tell it to stop."

For some reason, I have a feeling it will indeed fly around again, and Smartypants will tell me all about it. Let's just hope it only flies around in the daytime.

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