Before I dive into this narrative, please allow me to clarify one thing: As a parent, I have always tried to do my best. The best I know how in any given time or situation….
Our oldest son started to have very vivid nightmares around the age of 3. These would later turn into night terrors where he would actually get out of bed and walk around with his eyes open, as though he was awake…very fearful, and non-communicative. We never knew exactly what it was he was experiencing but he would be visibly frightened and act as though he was fleeing something. It was difficult to get him back to bed and we kept the gate on at the top of the stairs because of this behavior in an effort to protect him. In the morning, he would never remember being up at night. Thankfully he outgrew this.
…But I digress.
The nightmares started around the age of 3. Seemingly vivid and intense, they would wake him from a sound sleep and getting him back to bed was an ordeal. We used every device possible, from talking him through it, to explaining the power of his mind to change the events in the dream….nothing worked. Night after night we would awake to his screams, find him at our bed or just instinctually know that he was not safe.
One night, after watching yet another episode of Superman or the Justice League…I can’t remember….we started the usual bedtime routine. Hot bath, calming lotions, bedtime stories…..then the question….”How am I going to be safe tonight Mommy?”. I don’t know why I said what I said….with a 3-month baby as well, I was a breastfeeding, sleep-deprived emotional zombie.
It just came out…
“You don’t have to worry, because Mommy is Wonder Woman, and I will always protect you.”
My mind is racing…what did I just say??? He looked at me with wide eyes and said “REALLY?”. To which I replied “yes”.
There, it’s done.
But, he slept like a dream. He went to bed and didn’t wake up. Eventually we realized that there were no more nights of displaced sleep (at least not because of nightmares) or panicked moments. He rested and we rested.
In the mornings he would ask what I did last night. Soooo….as great parents do, I made up stories of where I went…or referred to news items and explained how I was helping in whatever current crisis there was. Some days he would say that I looked tired, and it must be because I was up late the night before at whatever plane crash or latest natural disaster had happened. My husband and I laughed at his intense imagination and marveled in his ability to reconcile my new role as Wonder Woman.
Time passed. The questions came…..
Him: “Mom, where do you keep your jet?”.
Me: “It’s in the backyard, honey.”
Him: “Why can’t I see it?”
Me: “It’s invisible, remember?”
Not a proud Mommy moment. I didn’t enjoy lying. I thought about telling him the truth, but he was so happy with the status quo…and I really loved being a super hero. It was this imaginary game that we got to play together….and we couldn’t tell anyone about it because of course, Wonder Woman had a secret identity. We would talk about things and have stories together.
It went on too long. Our second child was probably 5 (I know you are calculating right now…about 5 years) when the truth finally came out. It was then that our first born asked…and so I told him the truth.
No long term effects, right? The reality is that we probably just gave him a bit of a mental break from the nightmares of childhood and prolonged his progression into night terrors. That was the next phase.
Would I do it again? …no, most likely not. But hindsight is always perfect. Reflection brings clarity to the choices we’ve made….we understand that at the time, it seems like things will never end, but they always do. And time is precious. Memories are precious.
So our family has a memory of when Mom was Wonder Woman. We laugh about it now.
I did then, what I knew how to do. Once I knew better, I did better. ~ Oprah