When I tuck my four-year-old son into bed every night, I repeat the same thing my mother always said to me at bedtime, “Happy dreams.”
But recently, my son told me that he never has happy dreams. He has always been a good sleeper and other than the obligatory asking for a glass of water, he has never had problems going to bed. So when he said he only had bad dreams, I was very surprised.
But it’s when he describes his dreams that I get upset. His nightmares go from the classic, dreams about falling, to the heartbreaking, dreams about being hit by a truck. His surreal dream-scapes really freak me out, “There is a scary puddle with a face that turns into a monster,” and “A monster swallowed a balloon.” When I ask why this is scary, he tells me, “Because the monster is choking.”
It is bad enough that he has nothing but terrifying dreams, but the biggest monsters in his dreams are his parents. I can hear myself yelling at him:
“Don’t climb up there, you’ll fall!”
” Do not step in the street!”
” You better not run through that puddle!”
” Do not leave balloons on the ground; your baby sister could choke to death!”
His nightmares don’t seem to affect his sleep, but should I be concerned that he doesn’t have sweet dreams and that my anxieties seem to be the inspiration for his bad dreams?
When you make a decision to provide for the safety and well-being of your child, you have to forgive yourself and remind yourself that you are a WONDERFUL parent even if the results of your good intentions were more than you bargained for. How many parents don’t tell their children not to leave balloons on the ground and stay out of a busy street? Their children may sleep well, but for how long?
Should you be concerned? Does your child have any other symptoms of anxiety that affect his day to day functioning? How long and how often does he have nightmares? There are a lot more questions that would need to be answered before making this determination.
I probably shouldn’t get too Freudian, he’s pretty much a happy kid. He’ll only wake up from a bad dream about once a week, but he insists that he NEVER has happy dreams. But he certainly is having bad dreams, he describes them in vivid detail. Yet he knows his dreams aren’t real, and is only upset by them when they wake him up.