I usually write about “Hey, Ma” moments with my kids. But, this post is about a personal “Hey Ma” moment. I remember having a lot of nightmares when I was a child. My earliest memories of nightmares date back to about age six or seven. I remember waking up terrorized by something in my dreams. I would open my eyes to darkness and realize that the monster was in my dreams and not in my bedroom. But, could I really trust that the scary thing in my dreams had not escaped my dreamworld and found safe harbor in the darkness that filled every inch of space around me. Was the creature lurking in the closet? Was it hiding under the bed? What should I do next to ensure my security and protection from this creepy creature?
As an adult, I realized that the hallway from my room to my parents’ bedroom was really not that long. However, in my childhood mind that was consumed by terror and the reality of a racing heart rate, I thought their room was miles away. It always took a few minutes for my brain to convince the rest of me to throw the covers back and make a mad dash down the hall to their room to secure the protection I needed (and hopefully some sleep). Once after going through the whole mental exercise of escaping the thing that lurked in my dreams, I climbed into my parents’ bed and slide under the covers next to my mom and breathed a sigh of relief. She would generally ask, “Kim, what’s wrong?” I would tell her about the bad dream and she would say that it was only a dream and that I should go back to sleep.
After snuggling up next to her and feeling all cozy, I looked up and saw that their closet door was open. Oh my goodness what were those shadows in the closet? Surely the creepy, scary thing did not follow me from my room. The monster couldn’t be that bold and brave. Is it possible that Mama had heads of people in that closet! Who will get up and close the closet door so that I can sleep? Well, needless to say, I laid there most of the night looking through the darkness at the ceiling and wondering about the heads in the closet. When daylight broke, I could see that Mama had a few wig stands maintaining the structure of her most prized wigs. Those things literally shocked my senses all night. The lesson I learned from that experience was to plan ahead. Moving forward, I closed their closet door every night before I went to bed to ensure that my safe place felt like a safe place if I needed to find solace next to Mama again.
I had so many nightmares that when we traveled it was a topic of conversation because I needed to make sure I had my route to safety mapped out before bedtime. One summer we visited the home of friend in Florida. She was a wise older woman who listened intently as I discussed my sleeping arrangements and routed my path to the room where my mom would be sleeping. The woman asked me to go collect my crayons then she gave me a piece of paper and asked me to draw a picture of the monster that I saw in my dreams. Draw a picture of the monster?! I honestly didn’t have a recollection of the physical characteristics of the monster. I just knew that it was scary.
I put the crayon to the paper as instructed and drew what looked like a blob with pointed edges. I scribbled with purple, brown, black, orange, green, and red crayons. With hesitation I presented the portrait to her. She smiled and agreed that the monster was scary. How wonderful for me to have received affirmation from a grown up that scary monster things could exist in my dreams and frighten me out of my bed in the middle of the night. Next, she gave me some tape and told me to put the picture on my door. She assured me that when the monster saw himself he would run and I would be safe. Genius! She also gave me a small bible to put under my pillow. She said that evil could never lurk in the presence of the Word. I didn’t understand that statement at that time, but I trusted her enough to do what she said because she was the only adult who believed that my fears were real. I had no nightmares at her house.
I did everything I could do to save my kids from experiencing nightmares. I didn’t allow them to watch horror movies at home or at the theatre. When they were old enough to choose to watch them they did and for the most part they told me that the movies were comedic. They also said that they could see how those movies would have been scary when they were younger. There were no comments about me depriving them of the opportunity nor was there any resentment because they had to wait until they were older to experience horror flicks and haunted houses. When others were racing through the darkness filling sacks with treats, we practiced other family traditions because I was not a fan of people jumping out of bushes or using other scare tactics to frighten kids. I was not a fan of monster costumes and the dark tales told to arouse emotions of fear, insecurity, and gloominess. Furthermore, I like my sleep. My kids needed to sleep and not be running through the house jumping in my bed waking me up to assure them that they were safe from the boogie man. I worked to protect my babies from a boogie man intent on causing them mental anguish, paralyzing fear and insecurity.