Little Man woke up around 4am last night because of a nightmare. The poor little guy was scared out of his mind and crying, but wouldn’t tell me anything. He was in our bed already, so I tried to comfort him and rubbed his back until he fell back asleep a while later.
He asked to sleep in our bed again tonight, so I told him he could. LM is a fairly anxious little boy and gets scared a lot, so he likes to be close to us. I laid down with him at bedtime to talk a little and told him to name three things he likes about himself. (“Name three things about ____” is one of our things.)
“I can’t think of anything I like about myself,” he said, “but I can tell you what I don’t like–how I’m always scared of everything.”
WTF? I’m not just saying this because I’m his parent, but Little Man is one of the most special, unique, kind kids I’ve ever been around. Of all kids, he should be able to come up with a list of things he likes about himself, but I decided to go back to that later.
“Maybe you take after me a lot,” I told him. “Mommy gets anxious a lot–I get scared of things and worry about things that it doesn’t always make sense to worry about to others.”
“So when does that go away?” he asked.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always go away with everyone, but there are things you can do to help. Talking about it can be helpful (says the woman who is all anti-therapy), there are breathing exercises you can do to help take your mind off things…”
I described a breathing exercise for him, one where you visualize your happy place and breathe in and out slowly. I hate stuff like that, but if he finds it helpful, then awesome.
“That dream I had last night really scared me,” Little Man told me.
“Do you want to tell me what it was about?”
“I don’t remember,” he said quickly.
“Okay,” I said. “If you do remember and want to talk about it, let me know.”
“Well, I dreamed that a man with a white face was in my closet. And there was a little three-year-old boy with blonde hair playing on the carpet, and the man came out and killed himself in front of him.”
What the fuck?
“That sounds terrible. No wonder you were so scared.”
He nodded. “It was horrible.”
“Why do you think you dreamed something like that?” I asked.
“Have you ever seen anything on TV about someone hurting themselves or heard someone talk about it?” I pushed.
“Yeah, they talked about someone killing themselves on X-Files when I watched it with Daddy. And Grandpa told me that his brother killed himself.”
I’ll omit the words I had in mind for my husband and dad at that particular moment.
“That’s not something you should have to think about,” I told Little Man. “I’ll talk to Daddy and Grandpa. I’m really sorry it scared you. It would scare me to dream something like that, too.”
I rubbed his back for a little bit and waited to see if there was anything else he wanted to say, but he seemed kind of lost in thought, so I decided to go back to “Name three things you like about yourself.”
“So…three things. You have one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know. You have a great sense of humor. And you are a super creative thinker. I bet you’ll change the world one day.”
He smiled a little then and then started telling me about some things he could do to make the world better, including inventing “the cure for everything,” which is a bit of a step up from wanting to “cure cancer and the flu” as he’s said before.
I sure hope he has a more peaceful sleep tonight.
And I hope that anxiety won’t be such an issue for him as it has been with me.
A few months ago, he was tested for ADHD, which led to him also being tested for an Autism Spectrum Disorder and having his IQ tested. The psychologist said he presents as having mild ADHD and Asperger’s, but didn’t diagnose him with either because he said they may be explained by his high IQ (Very Superior on the WISC test). The only suggestions the psychologist really had were to “start saving for college” and “treat him like he has ADHD and Asperger’s.”
Not terribly helpful advice.
From what I’ve read, kids with high IQs (and ADHD and Asperger’s, whatever the case may be there) are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Combine that with the genetics factor, and we need to make sure we stay very mindful.