A Family that Dreams Together

Dreams. I’ve always had extremely vivid, sometimes lucid, sometimes insightful, but always insanely intense dreams. They can last for what feels like hours. I can wake up, get distracted, fall back asleep and drop right back into the same dream sequence. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, it’s just what has always been for me.

My older sons, however, simply don’t dream. I actually had to explain that it was like watching a movie about “you” while you slept and they had no idea what I was talking about. They probably dream but there’s just no impact. No nightmares, no meandering dreamland journeys. Nothing to recollect in the morning.

Recently Jude turned 6 and his entire brain lit up during his sleep and he started to understand that nightmares were just movies – scary movies – about him. He and I can talk about dreams, and I can pry into the details of his, trying to make sense out of his perspective of his world, translated into deep sleep processing. It’s as if I have a rare young friend who “gets it.”

This last Tuesday was one of the worst sleeps for nightmares I’ve had in a couple of years. I’m used to bad ones on a regular basis. But Tuesday sucked on a whole different level. Sore jaw from clenched teeth, covered in sweat, tears everywhere, fighting the urge to vomit. It was awful, the kind that I’d wake up from and (in the old days) a bottle of vodka would disappear just so the demons would subside. Thankfully, that wasn’t the recovery method this week. I eventually calmed down, rested, had a couple more nightmares and woke up. Then I went to work by 05:30.

Around 06:30, Jude came downstairs and immediately started telling Jaimi about his scary dreams. I watched and listened from the office down the hall as he stood by the dining table and described spinning up into the sky, remembering a nightmare from a few weeks back but saying how this time, these were different. I sat back and listened as he explored the uncomfortable memory of events. All this on the same night I had had epic horror shows in my own brain. I wanted to find a link. If Jude and I ever ate the same food, I’d blame it on that. But I can’t. So there is still an unexplained connection. And I’ll leave it at that for now.

I wouldn’t wish intense, vivid, long-winded dreams on anyone, let alone my own children. But I also wouldn’t wish it away… if that makes any sense. It’s just fascinating at this point that now I have a child who doesn’t only understand what dreams are, he’s excited to share them, even the bad ones. And processing those is something he and I can share together.