I don't remember having nightmares when I was a little kid. I don't know when they started. Maybe when I remembered being molested by my cousin, maybe after my first broken heart. They have haunted most of my adult life. I always feared sleeping over with a guy because I would never know if I was going to wake up crying or screaming in the middle of the night.
The more settled I've become in my adult life, the less they happen. A has always been, from the very beginning, very good and helping me deal with them. Lately, they rarely happen. Usually only when I am especially stressed or sick.
I've known as I watch M's imagination expand and grow that nightmares would be coming. They are this undeniable right of passage for young minds. She doesn't have the words to explain that she is scared, but she won't fall back asleep on her own. So far, I've been unwilling to see how long it would take if we left her. When I go to check on her she is trying to sit up, not fully awake, but crying for me. For now, all she needs are some hugs, then it is right back to sleep. Not so easy for me. I'm finding that after I go to comfort her, I have a hard time falling back asleep. I lay awake, listening to make sure that she doesn't wake back up despite having seen her whole body relax as she fell back asleep.
I know it is my own history, my own bad dreams that are keeping me awake. I doubt that she has context to have the bad dreams that I have. For her drama consists of not being allowed to eat your weight in strawberries, or toilets that keep flushing while you try to pee.