I went into Eli’s room this morning and he was standing by the wall, crying quietly. I looked at him suspiciously (thinking he’d pooped his pants or something) and interrogated him. When it was clear that he was emotionally distressed and not feeling ashamed or guilty, I pulled him on my lap and started asking real questions.
“I had a bad dream.”
At this point he had been awake for a couple hours and I was thoroughly confused.
“You mean last night?”
It was obviously still really bothering him so I asked him to tell me about it but he refused. Of course my imagination went wild and I became obsessed with finding out the content of his dream. I made guesses, I comforted, reassured, and tried to be gentle. He kept saying
“The only part of the dream I remember is the part I don’t want to tell you.”
The poor kid looked horrified. I told him that if we talked about it he would probably feel better, and that he could probably forget about it once he told me about it. He said
“I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to forget it but it won’t go out of my mind”
I told him that after we talked about it we could play a game to help him forget about it. He still refused. He said he knew he wouldn’t be in trouble, he felt safe talking to me; I couldn’t figure out why he was holding back. Finally I started asking the right questions.
“Who was in the dream?”
“Our family. Except Dad, and Cam and Si.”
“It was just me and you and Miriam?”
“Yeah. Dad and Cam and Si were there but they were somewhere else. They were doing the same thing as us somewhere else.”
“What were we doing?”
“We were looking for fruit. For breakfast.”
“Did someone get hurt?”
“That’s the part I don’t want to tell you.”
“Was it me?”
“Did I die?”
He nods. He’s crying by this point, which results in me crying.
“What happened to me?”
“Misha killed me?”
That was about all I could get out of him, but it was enough to make me feel totally awful. I gave him big hugs and promised him Misha would never hurt me and that I planned to be alive until he had little kids to sit on my lap. It broke my heart!
While I had my doubts about whether or not to force him to tell me, I’m glad I did because I hate to imagine it festering in his little soul. Eli is a compassionate little guy, and I think his biggest worry was hurting my feelings by telling me that he had dreamt that I died.
These are the things about being a parent that no one could ever prepare you for.