The doctor called it ‘night terrors’. He said my son would grow out of it. My mother said I’d been the same way when I was little. Screaming in the middle of the night, sleep walking, shouting nonsense, hitting and kicking in my sleep, going to bed in one place and waking up in another. She said it was nothing to worry about. But if my son was going through what I went through, I was terrified.
I can’t honestly say I remember all the dreams that haunted and taunted me through my formative years, but a few are branded on my memory. The fear, the voices, the challenges of these nightmares to this day strike a primal chord within me.
It didn’t take long to recognize that Banner wasn’t going to sleep no matter where he was. Sleeping alone, he would scream and wake up. Even sleeping with us did nothing to ease his unrest. I specifically recall a night when he was so wound up he was virtually beating himself. He repeatedly hit his belly with his own little fists so hard that the next morning, he had faint bruises. He would kick and kick and kick. Once he kicked himself right off the bed.
He was always asleep when this happened. He wasn’t rational, he wouldn’t open his eyes. When he got older and could speak, he would say the strangest things.
By the time Banner was two, he was almost impossible to handle in these night terror situations. The doctor told me not to worry. Just let him cry, he’ll be fine. My mother told me to take him outside, that the cold would jar him out of sleep. My husband and I tried everything from softly cooing to outright yelling. I won’t lie. At the end of my rope, I slapped him across the face once. Only once. I can’t imagine how other people can beat their children repeatedly. And yet, I can. What’s amazing is that none of these tactics brought my son out of his nightmares.
As one can imagine, we were an ‘on edge’ family. My son was an angel during the day. He was loving, intelligent, curious, gentle, fun, downright delightful. But during the night something else took hold of him. We bought him a bigger bed and to ensure that my husband got the sleep he needed, I slept in Banner’s room with him.
Before long, it seemed that Banner and I were sharing dreams. If something in my dream were funny, I could hear and feel Banner laugh. If my dream were at all frightening or overly vivid (as they have been my whole life) he would scream or roll over, putting his chubby arms around my neck saying, "Mommie, Hug me!" I started to wonder what that meant. How could I have known? How could I have ever imagined?