Buddy has a very active imagination. He goes from being a tiger and running around on his hands and feet and clawing at the tree bark with his claws to the point his fingertips become raw -- to being a sea monster -- to being a pirate -- to being everything in between -- all day long. When he dresses up, boy does he dress up (as well as dress everyone else around him including me and poor Sambo). When he's in character, he's in character.
The day before yesterday he came tearing into the kitchen where I was making dinner.
Buddy: I have been trying to decide what we should do for fun tomorrow.
Me: OK. Like what?
B: We should go to the refuge it it's nice weather. Or we should go to the zoo if it's nice weather. If it's not nice weather, we should go to St. Village.
M: What's St. Village?
B: It's that really fun place with the dragons and elephants and pirates.
M: I have no idea what you're talking about. Do you mean Enchanted Forest (an old-school "amusement park" near here.)
B: (Exacerbated) NO! I mean St. Village, not Enchanted Forest!
M: Have you been to St. Village before? Who did you go with?
B: I went with you, mom.
M: Where is it? How do we get there?
B: You go north, then south, then east, then west. You drive two miles an hour and it takes about forty minutes to get there.
M: I have no idea what you're talking about.
B: (Huffs) I'm just trying to use my imagination. Why can't you?
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Buddy has had two nights of terrible nigh-terrors. Tuesday night was on-and-off crying and getting out of bed for about 2-3 hours which is extremely unusual for Buddy. It was annoying, but I couldn't sleep anyway and passed the time by reading out in the living room. I dismissed it thinking that would never happen again.
Wednesday on the other hand was horrible. He screamed and thrashed around in his bed for literally eight hours. He was hysterical, he was stiff as a board, he was screaming things I couldn't believe were coming out of his mouth. At first I was annoyed and thought he was being belligerent, then I became scared. I laid with him for a couple of hours in the wee hours of the morning and he told me all about the robots and mean scary men in his room. How they were cutting him up and he was bleeding really bad and how they were using his ceiling fan to poke him and how they were hurting Sambo and if I stayed in his room they'd hurt me "but don't go mom, I am so unbelievably terrified I can't have you leave my side." The terror in his crying and talking was unlike anything I've ever heard before. This whole time he was wide awake and talking totally coherently. But I'm sure he had to have been asleep. It was just so unlike the Buddy I know.
Much to my surprise, when the sun came up this morning, I realized he had been bleeding during the night. He had a terrible nosebleed that for whatever reason I never noticed during the night and blood was all over his bed and face. That obviously contributed to the realness of the dream. Today was a very rough day and I finally had to ban any talk of the night because it was stressing us all out.
I've been trying to figure out what caused this. And I've been trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again. First of all, I greatly value my sleep. But more than that, there's nothing worse than seeing your child so upset and shaken to the core. Has he watched any scary movies lately? No. He watched Monsters Inc. with grandma the other day but he insisted these were NOT monsters in his room. They were real men and they were mean. He's watched Phantom of the Opera twice lately (his new obsession -- I know it's strange, isn't it?). I can't imagine that caused this, but maybe? Maybe an over-active imagination?
* * *
Although I'm starting to really form the opinion that children can really sense stress. We are relatively stressed around here. Nothing horrible has or is happening. Just the craziness of life. I feel like we're managing it well and quite frankly, I feel like I've been in a pretty good mood lately. Still, stress is stress and I just can't shake the feeling that maybe Buddy is sensing and reacting to the stress.
He's reacted to stress before. For a period of time a few years ago I spent way too much time helping a very needy "friend" with a whole bunch of drama in her life. Every time I got involved or we went to her house, Buddy lost it. It was weird. After a few times of that, I realized he could sense the stress in her home and literally couldn't handle it.
Exactly a year ago as a matter of fact in the midst of the extreme stress in our lives, Buddy's behavior was so horrible I seriously considered counseling for him and me. But then the stress improved and so did he.
* * *
What's the morale of this story? I don't know. But it worries me that a child's feelings can be so tender. And it really makes a case for doing everything possible to make the home a safe and happy place.