Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Imaginary Table, No Waiting: Dream Diaries and Kids

My son once told me about a dream he had when his stepmother was dying. She was awake and happy and her disease was cured, and they were talking together as they always had. 

He woke up and then realized it was all a dream, and the sadness in his voice when he was sharing this story broke my heart. At the same time, I wanted to believe that the most eternal part of his stepmother’s soul was visiting him—and that could, perhaps, provide some kind of comfort to him in days and years to come.

Last May, when a close friend died, I dreamed about seeing her in Springfield, Illinois where she lived. I got off the bus and she took my hand (and I can still remember how warm it was). She said, “Let me show you my town,” and I turned to her, smiling, and then I woke up.

She died a few days later, but she’s visited my dreams a few times since that happened. And each time I wake up, I feel the same loss—and want to go back into my dream again.

A friend once said she started taking Ambien so she would sleep well and stop having dreams. My own dreams tilt and weave, tending to be super-anxious exaggerations of my fears. A lot of times I wake up like Cathy in Wuthering Heights, nearly sobbing with joy and grateful to be back on terra firma.

But would I trade my dreams for “a good night’s sleep?” No, because I think the fact that I’m dreaming at all means I’m doing what my sleep needs me to do. I believe dreams allow us to talk to ourselves and process all the fears, losses, desires, relationships and even other dreams we are having.

Dreams are a rich source of stories. So if I’m dreaming about a stomach specialist who can’t figure out what’s wrong with me, I want to pay attention. If I can remember that dream coupled with a dream about a close friend taking pictures of a landscape using a beautiful blue filter, I can knit those concepts together when I wake up—and see where they lead.

I never started a dream diary with my son when he was growing up but I wish I had, because his dreams were fascinating. We did try and tell each other our dreams whenever we remembered them, and I always thought they gave us great insights into how we felt about life and what we wanted from it.

With hindsight being everything, I’m recommending to you, now, to start a dream diary with your child or children. Ask them to try and remember everything they can as soon as they wake up and jot down a few notes (before school) and more detailed notes (on weekends).

I hope you’ll find these dream diaries open up new worlds between you and your kids. Even if they don’t, though, I bet they’ll yield up some fun conversations. One imaginary table, no waiting. Hold (off on) the Ambien—forever, if you can.

For more on dream journals, you might try these articles:

Bridge photo: Peter Budd