It has to be one of the most frightening experiences a parent has to undergo with a child. If you’ve never had a child with night terrors, you’re fortunate.
My son started having these episodes at about three years old. At first, we thought he was just afraid of the dark. Then he started screaming. I’d go in to find out what was wrong, and he would be sitting up in bed, screaming and crying, his eyes wide open. I would talk to him, and he would act as if he didn’t know I was there. It was very scary.
Fortunately for us, we had a close family friend whose son went through the same thing, and we were at their house when he had the night terrors. So when our son started this bizarre behavior, we had an idea what it was.
It doesn’t happen very often, but usually when he’s had a long day or is particularly over tired. First grade has been tough for him. He’s fallen asleep on the bus twice in the past two weeks.
Tonight, I heard a demanding “Mommy!” followed by “that’s why I…” I knew what it was, and I stayed back, hoping he would fall back asleep on his own. Instead, the cry got louder: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” followed by sobbing. I went into him. It’s like walking in on someone’s bad dream.
He was sitting up, looking around the room wildly, wiping the tears from his eyes. I went to hold him, but he didn’t respond to my touch. His entire body quivered. I held him tight, hoping it would reassure him. He still yelled for me. “I’m right here. It’s alright.” I kissed him on his head and cheek.
After a few minutes, I asked him if he wanted to lay down. Even then he shifted under his blanket, adjusting his covers, his eyes still open and moving back and forth like they do when someone’s dreaming. I laid beside him for a few minutes, then when he had settled somewhat I quietly left his room and turned out the light.
Sometimes it’s not so easy. I’ve had him scream when my face is inches from his. He’s tried to fight me off before.
I don’t know why his dreams become so real to him at times. I just hope I can love him through his real life bad times as well.