When Sugarplum was little, she had night terrors. To the uninitiated, "night terrors" means that you wake up screaming, but aren't really awake and whatever is making you scream is still very real. You are too caught up in the nightmare to wake up. In other words, night terrors are a metaphor for life.
Being new at this, we didn't know how to deal. Your kid screams and you go in and hold her, right? Except she's not awake and in her reality, the giant squid she's been screaming about has just rushed into her bedroom and grabbed her. It's maybe even making her scream extra loud because a giant squid that calls you "sweetie pie" and runs its slimy tentacles through your hair is just plain creepy.
Thanks to the pediatric advice of Google, we learned a little bit about what we were dealing with and could approach it with a little more finesse. Which means, we didn't touch her.
I'd go in and use my best exorcist voice to let her know I was scaring off the scariness. Or I would say "Sugarplum! you're not afraid of it!" until she believed me. Or I'd tell her she was smarter and stronger and better than "it." And then I'd sing to her and run my slimy tentacles through her hair and tell her it was all gone.
We stopped trying to wake her out of the dream, and started changing her experience.
Sugarplum eventually outgrew it, and we were pleased to note that Studley was not following in her footsteps. Until last night.
Last night we heard the familiar screams and went to go administer the pep talk. But where Sugarplum was just screaming her little lungs out, Studley was saying something almost intelligible.
Studley (sobbing, gasping, screaming): don't take my lunch!
me: it's okay, you have your lunch. No one's taking it.
Studley: (hiccup.... snore....)
I wish it could always be this easy.
And I wish I could remember to do this for myself. When I'm awake.