All children have bad dreams, especially as their imaginations are developing, but I never imagined how awful they make parents feel! One night a few months ago L was screaming “No, I don’t like it!” at the top of her lungs. In my imagination someone is hurting her and she needs my help, but in reality it was probably much more innocent and that she didn’t like her ice-cream!
J (aged 6) has been having some bad dreams recently, and its making him feel scared in the night. We are always on hand for a cuddle, but it’s exhausting at times, especially when his younger sisters usually need us in the early hours too. When he was younger, he couldn’t explain his dreams, but now he can talk about them, meaning we can at least reassure him he is safe.
Last night he came into our room saying he thought he heard Santa, I explained it was a bit early but that Santa would be here soon. It was 4am, so I asked him to go back to bed and see if he could get some more sleep. That’s when he told me about his bad dream.
He started explaining his dream, and his first words were. “You let me go too far away Mummy”, he had dreamt that he had gone too far away from us, fallen down a mountain and floated out to sea. We gave him a huge cuddle and he settled to sleep quite quickly, but I didn’t.
He blamed me for not keeping him safe and letting him go too far away, and that hurts, even though I know it was just a dream.
I try to let them go a responsible distance away from me if they are with friends, but if I feel they are too far away I call them back.
On the positive side, it means he must feel safe when he is close, but maybe I am holding on to them a little too tightly.
Finding the balance
With four children and an age gap of six years, it is always going to be hard to find a balance, between letting the big ones go and keeping the little ones safe. The little ones will always want to follow in their elder siblings lead, but it’s not always safe or possible!
In J’s dream he was lost because I let him go too far ahead, and in reality I do let him know when he is too far away from me. I think in future I will try to let him gauge what distance is too far, and let him go a little bit out of my comfort zone, just to see what happens and while I know he is still safe.
I want to give J the room he needs at six to start his journey to independence, but slowly and safely.
I think erring on the side of caution is good, but not to the other extreme, I don’t want to be the parent who is trying to wrap my children in cotton wool.
Parenting is so hard, where do you find the right balance?