Monday, August 3, 2009


I am at a schwanky party at a stone castle on the Riviera. I've stepped out onto the terrace for some air (the inside air was getting a little weighty with pretension).

"You've never looked more beautiful" the voice behind me says (a fleeting thought doesn't disagree, as my dress cuts a perfect silhouette in the moonlight). I turn and gaze into his eyes and his arm gently slips around my waist and pulls me closer. I find myself fully lost in those eyes.

"MOOOOOMMMMM!!!" The shrill voice rips through the brisk night air. I ignore it. Probably someone else's mom.

"MOOOOOMMMMMMMYYY!!!" As the veil that was my happy place gets shredded into little wet bits, I catch a fleeting glimpse of my Danny heading off to catch the next most beautiful perfect silhouette. Likely one without a muffin-top too, fickle bastard. And I get up to tend to the offender.

I've done a lot of reading and observing, considering and ignoring, trial and error, laughing and no doubt shuddering on various parenting techniques, tricks, strategies philosophies and tips. Dealing with nightmares is the one thing that I have to say I've not really read much about, but actually reached my own conclusion, based a lot on things not specifically related to parenting. So it's probably wrong. But I've never claimed to be good at any of this. Read, consider, and let me know what you think of my approach.

Part I – The [ahem] "Science"

I took a "Leadership" course through work several years ago. Sounds very "Dilbert", but it was an excellent course on responsibility, delegation and a bunch of other corporate stuff. It was a brief, shining moment when I had some faith that my organization was heading in the right direction with something [ahem]. Throughout this course, the instructor spouted off several bits of wisdom that just made plain sense.

(1) We retain [The actual number is less relevant than the scale between them - I'm going to say -] 10% of what we hear, 50% of what we write down, and 80% of what we explain (either back or to someone else). Your brain puts information into different compartments depending upon what it's doing with it. Writing and explaining require more processing.

(2) Something bothering you? Talk it out! This was the "traditional" format for trauma counselling (talking dangerously close to out of my ass now). He stated that there has been growing evidence that making someone talk about a traumatic even can serve to only freeze the event in their memory, when their own coping mechanism may just be to suppress it. In such situations, “they” have found, the individual should actually dictate how they need to cope. Some people need to talk about stuff, others need not to. Or they do, but a little later (again, several years ago, this may be mainstream now. Or entirely shot down. I mention it because in my context, the basic notion still makes perfect sense to me)

Of course he provided references, but I didn't write them down... or recite them to someone else.

[if anyone locally ever has the chance to take anything with Linton Sellen, I recommend jumping at it]

Part II – The Personal Experience

Whenever I am awakened by a bad dream - it seems my conscience would prefer I waken and play-out the worst semi-consciously - I cannot go back to sleep until I fully waken myself and flush the images. Fully reconcile the logistics of yes-that-frightens-you-but-the-likelihood-of-the-earth-opening-up-and-swallowing-your-car-is-low-enough-that-you-do-not-have-to-have-an-escape-plan

On the flip-side, ever have an awesome/funny/interesting/bizarre dream and want to tell about it at breakfast or work later? Or when some seemingly random image reminds you of it?And all you can get out is: "it was really weird... there was.. something about... I was dating Tintin, and uh, Bea Arthur* was vacuuming my curtains, but it, uh made total sense in context and actually was, uh, I think a subconscious commentary on social justice in a world dominated by um... velociraptors... No, really. Don't walk away!"
The Actual Advice (disclaimer: don't take this advice without engaging your own brain. You do have one. I know because you've read this far!)

Based on the above (they relate! Shut up, they do!), I never, EVER prompt the offender child to recite what has caused the distress no matter how much I want to punish them for ruining my evening with Daniel Craig

-- Gently wake the child (not all the way). A hug and "Mom/Dad's here" to test the waters

-- Preferably get them to sit up to apply the hugs

-- Acceptable statements: "It's mom/dad/Aunt Fanny"; "You're safe, in your house"; "Mom & Dad are right here in our room" (maybe leave out any explanations for the noises that probably woke them up - now's probably not a good time for that)

-- If they want to talk about it, BY ALL MEANS! but reassure with every statement "you're here now"; "everything's alright" and such and such.
This has seems to work for my kids so far, but I haven't been faced with night terrors or any other really complex middle of the night issues. Tell me what you think of this approach.

My next bit of psychological parenting advice has to do with monsters. Stay tuned for more talking out of my ass!
*I really wanted to put the whole picture in here, but it's a very big image, so it's just linked

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  1. Michelle

    I like your advice. When Mackenzie used to wake up, she usually talked about her dream, and then did not want to close her eyes again because she could still see it in her mind. So I would visualize with her - pick a time/event etc that she enjoyed and then ask questions (so who is at the beach with you, is the water cold or warm...) so she would describe it and get the other vision out of her head. Always worked for me.

  2. <"it was really weird... there was.. something about... I was dating Tintin, and uh, Bea Arthur* was vacuuming my curtains, but it, uh made total sense in context and actually was, uh, I think a subconscious commentary on social justice in a world dominated by um... velociraptors... No, really. Don't walk away!"> I don't know if I love you more for imagining such an utterly bizarre and yet oddly wonderful scenario...or if I feel like suggesting a 6-month stay in a sanitarium. Either way, your mind is delightfully twisted...

  3. Lynda - I definitely like your take. I've yet to deal with specific dreams (partly I think because of the above, but probably mostly luck). I'm definitely putting that in the toolbox.

    Country Girl - Hypothetically speaking, of course, how much more "crazy" would I have to be to get this 6-month stay???