Our house is small. 840 square feet. And this is one reason we never had a baby monitor. We served as living, breathing baby monitors, and our son is not an independent sleeper.
In all likelihood, he is a monster of our own creation, assembled from the criminal wreckage of our psyches, but in the end it doesn't matter how we arrived here. We are here, and we are awake. And likely to remain so for quite some time.
Oh, it's definitely improved. Sometimes he makes it until 6 a.m. Every once and a while he makes it even farther: I awaken before he does and assume he has suffered late-onset SIDS. But mostly, it's between 12:30 and 3:30 a.m. when we hear the bed creak. Those bare feet hit the floor, and he climbs into bed with us.
Tonight, I was in the kitchen, resisting all attempts to post snark and vague allusions to my mental state on Facebook*, when I heard babywhumpus crying in his room at the farthest corner of the house (see above: 840 square feet). That’s usually “bad dream” territory and is not common when considered in the panoply of his awakenings, so I went to him. As I am by myself while daddywhumpus is out of town tending to his Big Fat Life, I picked up my sweaty, sad boy and placed him directly into my bed, moving my base of operations there for the night. He went back to sleep easily. Indeed, I doubt he will remember it in the morning; and I found myself wondering what he dreamed about.
What are the scary dreams of children? Monsters, abandonment, darkness? Are they much different, in essence, than the scary dreams of grown-ups? He never can tell us, neither at the time nor in the morning. Though in the cold light of day, he will often make something up, using bits from his surroundings and videos he has seen. Aliens, zombies, brains...
I am guessing the themes are the same, as I don’t believe he is a sociopath, and his worries are universal human ones. The main difference being that as adults we have accumulated experiences that make our nightmares more vivid. Our brain hones the ability to target itself at its most vulnerable and goes in for the kill. We have the details to really, super scare ourselves.
When we wake up in a sweat, and in our unconscious, our partner has left us, we remember the scathing words, the recrimination, the self doubt, the smell of toast in the room, and we tell our partner, who has not left, all about it as they sit in front of us buttering toast and wondering if he or she should feel bad that they dream-left us. We know that it’s all crazy, but we still need them to say, “Oh, honey, I would never do that,” and pat us on the shoulder as they hand us our coffee.
*Thank Hades there was no social media when I was in my twenties. Or early thirties.