The Younger Boy has always had an active imagination. This is wonderful during the day. I have had the privilege of watching him play out elaborate fantasies where he is saving the world and inventing wonderful creations. In his fantasy worlds, good always prevails.
At night, however, it’s a different story. See, the downside to having a great imagination is that it never stops, especially when you’re sleeping. Dreams run rampant–some are good, some are bad. All are vivid and lifelike. So, it is not unusual for Philip to come running into our bedroom in the middle of the night after having a nightmare. Even though I monitor what my kids are exposed to, he still somehow comes up with evil monsters, werewolves, vampires, and anything else “dark.”
When these things invade his little mind, I let him lay in the bed next to me, while I hold him and tell him that everything will be ok. I reassure him that there are no such things as monsters, and that he is safe. I usually tell him to say some prayers, to call upon God for comfort, and sometimes we even pray together.
In the past 3 weeks, he has had nightmares every night, but these are of a different sort.
Philip is a very intelligent child. It is hard to hide things from him. He picks up on certain parts of conversations, the feelings of those around him, and the their actions as well. He then makes his own little conclusions to what is going on in the adult world. So, when we found out that I have multiple sclerosis, The Husband and I decided it would be best to be honest with the children. I knew that if we didn’t tell them what was going on, The Younger Boy would figure something out on his own, and I was afraid that he would imagine something much worse than the truth.
On the afternoon that we got the news, we sat the boys down, and I told them the following:
You know how Mommy’s been sick a lot lately? Well, we found out today that I have something called multiple sclerosis. That’s hard to say, huh? We can just call it MS for short. [Answering the first question that I knew Philip had, I continued…] No, I will not die from MS. People do not die from MS. I’m going to see a special doctor in Houston, and they’re going to give me medicine. Once I start taking the medicine, Mommy will feel all better! I will have MS forever, there is no cure for it, but I understand that the medicine will keep away the yucky feelings I have. I won’t be tired all of the time, and I won’t hurt anymore. Doesn’t that sound good? I can’t wait to feel better again! I want to play like we used to, and I want to be able to go on field trips and volunteer at your schools again. So, even though Mommy is sick, this is good news! Now, we just got to get better. Any questions?
(Obviously, MS is not as simple as all that, but that was enough information for now. We’ll overcome any other struggles as they appear.) Surprisingly, there was only one question, and it came from Philip…”So, you won’t die, right?”
Do I know my kid, or what? “Not from MS,” was my honest answer. We all die at some point, I couldn’t very well tell him I’d be immortal.
Even though that was the end of the MS conversation at that time, our household was instantly changed. And, I saw the biggest change in Philip. If I was resting in the afternoon, he’d come into the bedroom, pull the covers up over me, and kiss my forehead. He’d lie down next to me to read or color, and if I fell asleep, he’d turn off the movie he was watching and leave the room. As sweet as these gestures were, I didn’t want him to worry about me like that. I wanted him to play, to have fun, to be a kid.
After a few days, I noticed that his actions only got worse. He’d cling to me always, even sitting outside the bathroom door if I was showering. He’d want to sleep on the floor in our room every night. He’d cry when it was time for school in the morning, and ask how long he’d be away from me. He cried when I dropped him off for Catechism, which is only an hour. He would constantly offer to bring me a blanket or some water, and he would fuss at The Older Boy if he got loud. He started bringing home test grades of Cs and Ds, when he was a straight A (sometimes B) student.
His worry was obvious. His worry worried me. I was constantly reassuring him that everything was okay. I told him over and over that I was happy to finally know what was wrong with me, because now I could fight it.
Then the nightmares started. For almost every night now, he’s had bad dreams that shake him to the core. These demons aren’t supernatural, though. These demons are real fears, fear of his mommy dying, fear of his mommy going to live at the hospital forever, fear of his mommy going blind “and you’ll never see me again”. How do I fight that? I know how to slay a nightmare dragon, I don’t know how to “fix” his real fears.
I took him to see The Ninja-Priest-Friend, whom he asked, “What would you do if you had a Mommy with MS?” The priest was impressed with his question, as was I, and gave an honest answer, full of wisdom and faith. After that, everything seemed to be fine for a little while. Philip hasn’t cried to go to school, and he isn’t constantly clinging to me. Don’t get me wrong, he still clings. But I can at least shower in peace now and cook without him being under my feet.
Even though some things have gotten better, he has picked up a new behavior that bothers me. He takes my things. I’m actually in a relapse now (going on week 6…sheesh!), and I usually get the chills and run a slight fever in the evenings. I have a blanket that I use pretty regularly, but every morning, I have to hunt it down. When I go to sleep, I leave the blanket on the couch, yet in the morning, it is gone. I find it (every single morning) in Philip’s bed. So, at some time in the night, he awakens, gets the blanket and goes back to bed. He tells me it smells good, like my shampoo. He also took my hair brush, and I often catch him hiding in my side of the bed.
He also brought home a C and D on his report card, where he had an A before.
He kisses me more.
His hugs are longer and tighter.
He’s afraid…and it’s obvious.
I’ve looked into some counseling resources for him. I’ve gotten him a book on MS, that focuses on how mom will be okay, I’ve ordered a DVD for him, I’ve taught him to pray in the face of fear, I’ve prayed with him, I’ve prayed for him. I don’t know what else to do.
I long for monsters. I long for the days that his nightmares are based on unreal things. I long for the days that, in his world, good prevails over evil. Where nothing bad happens. I’m so sorry that my children have to live in a world of sickness. I’m so sorry that this is their reality. If I could take this away from them, I would. In a heartbeat. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way. For whatever reason, this is our reality.
I really miss those monsters. Those monsters are much easier to deal with than these monsters.
If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them….place them in the “Comments” below.
I would also greatly appreciate any prayers for my little man.