Last night was pretty much the worst bathtime ever. It was time for the twice-weekly shampooing of Sasha’s hair, and she was having none of it, taking multiple timeouts before finally agreeing to walk into the bathroom, disrobe, and be cleaned. Only, I made a mistake. After squirting some shampoo in her little hand, I made the mistake of putting some in my own hand and rubbing it into her hair. That set her off. She—not me—is the one who’s supposed to start the shampooing.
Soon we were struggling out in the hallway, me scrubbing her hair while she writhed on the floor, and then I had to carry her into the bathroom, lower her into the tub, and pour buckets of water over her head while she stood there silent with shock. Then she screamed some more.
And actually, this miserable resistance had started much earlier. When we pulled up to the front gate of my apartment building, Sasha refused to get off the bike. And obviously, I understood: She doesn’t want to go inside, doesn’t want a bath, doesn’t want a bottle of warm milk—all of these things together spell bedtime, which, as a toddler, she’s duty-bound to put off as long as possible.
Yesterday’s resistance, however, was different—more serious, more deeply felt. And in fact, on the bike ride home, Sasha had told me why she didn’t want to go home:
“I don’t want to dream,” she’d said from her Ibert kid’s seat between my handlebars.
Yes, Sasha—this sweet, wonderful, cute toddler—has nightmares. Often, she’ll wake up once or twice, usually before midnight, screaming and crying in terror, and I’ll rush into her room to comfort her with a hug and put her back down to sleep.
What are the nightmares about? She never says, but on Sunday, as we drove back to Brooklyn from Boston, we got a clue. It was mid-afternoon, and Sasha had fallen asleep in her car seat, when Jean and I suddenly heard her cry out.
“Daddy, please! Daddy! Please! Daddy, please!”
“Don’t go! Don’t go! Don’t go!”
Um, heartbreaking a little? For a Daddy who’s always going somewhere—it’s my job, after all—this was crushing, but at least I began to understand the kid a bit better.
The frustrating thing is that there isn’t all that much I can do about it. When she wakes up in terror, I’m always there for her, reassuring her that everything is okay, and I give her a big hug, and then everything is okay. But now that she knows what kind of scary dreams might face her as she goes down to bed… I mean, I can explain to her that the nightmares aren’t real, that she can always just wake up, but how much of that will a two-and-a-half-year-old understand?
Let’s just hope tonight goes okay. And tomorrow night.