So the other night, just about 11:30pm, my older son came out of his room and into my office.  He was scared.  This is, generally speaking, unusual for him.  He's not prone to waking up in the middle of the night, almost always it's because something has been wrong, such as being sick.  He has mentioned bad dreams in passing.  And of course, I know that for him, as it had been for me as a young child, the time around falling asleep is prone to that zone between wakefulness and dream where you almost occupy both.  The imagination runs rampant, and he can't always shut down quickly and just fall to sleep.  And in that time, monsters show up.  I tried the scientific explanation to him, as usually that is something that well reaches him.  How our eyes work, and how our brains impress pattern recognition so that you will see in shadows shapes to be wary of.  It's instinctual to do so, a base survival instinct left over from when we lived in times where things routinely hunted us in the dark. 

I think that lasted a few weeks. Then we were back to random "monsters" in the room, etc. So it goes.  But we deal with those the way I suspect most parents do, calming the kids down, giving them a night light, etc. But, as I said, this is all during the time when the boys first lay down to sleep.  My younger son, he's the one prone to waking up in the middle of the night, freaked out, then comes running into our bed.  It doesn't happen all that often, but I've been woken up by him on more than one occasion in the morning, snuggled between my wife and I.  He's still young, and it happens less and less these days.

So, when the Little Man came into my office and started talking to me about Bloody Mary...and how he'd seen her in the mirror, I was rather astonished.   I don't remember that old tale being something talked about in first grade, so I didn't suspect him picking that up from school.  Which meant that he most likely picked that up from a book.   My suspicion is one of his Worldcraft encyclopedia books that we inherited from my eldest sister.  Now, he's hyperlexic, so I'm not exactly surprised that he's able read and process such things.  What's interesting in this instance is watching him incorporate that knowledge (likely gained that evening in his reading before bed time...yes, he is exactly the kind of child that will sit and read encyclopedias) and turn it into an experience.  Not that I want him to have bad dreams about a ghost, and he hasn't had more dreams or mentioned it since, so I suspect that it has moved on.

Now, it might seem perfectly logical that what he reads before bed has an influence upon his dreams.  I always suspected such, and I remember when I would read him something that might be scarey (Well, to and young child at least) such as Holly Black's Spiderwick Chronicles, I was always on alert for him being scared, or having bad dreams/nightmares, etc.  That never seemed to happen.  So why thien, I wonder, did more overtly scarey story elements fail to invade his thoughts in that manner, whereas simply reading an article about Bloody Mary had such drastic effect?   Could it be because one was a story, and in the context of reading a fiction, and knowing it to be fiction, the brain filters it in an appropriate manner, whereas because the account of Bloody Mary was in a source that isn't ostensibly about fictional things, and therefore it made the account, even though perhaps talking about folklore, to be somehow more real?

I don't think I'll ever find the answer to that one for certain.  But I can't help thinking about the question.  Do we perceive and process information differently when we think it's fiction versus non-fiction, and how does that influence how we make use of that information?

kaasirpent: (Default)

From: [personal profile] kaasirpent

When I was in the third grade, two boys in my class told me about Bloody Mary, and the inevitable happened: There was a horrible storm, and I was absolutely convinced I'd seen Mary in the window of the bedroom during one particularly vivid flash of lightning and crash of thunder. I ran screaming into my parents' bedroom.

It was literally YEARS before I could sleep in that bedroom, and then never with my back to the window. I'm almost 50, and my mother sold that house about 2 years ago, and that room still gave me a slightly uneasy feeling.

Dreams are powerful. :)

From: [identity profile]

Oh, I was like that for years after seeing the movie Poltergeist. Every night I had to make sure my closet door was closed all the way. Even though during the day I had no problems with it.

From: [identity profile]

I can't rule out that he might have heard of it/learned it at school, as opposed to a book. I didn't want to ask, because it seemed to blow over, and why add fuel to the fire? I don't think I heard that sort of thing until I was much older though, probably middle school aged, around about the time I recall people playing with Ouija boards and such.

From: [identity profile]

Oh, lord. I remember my daughter being terrified of an area of the playing field, because that was where the bloody X was (our version of the Bloody Mary tale).

I think for kids there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction. If it raises emotions, and all the others believe it, it has to be true. Whatever the adults say, because kids already know adults lie.

From: [identity profile]

It hasn't, thankfully, recurred yet. I snuggled him on my lap for about 20 minutes, then put him back to bed, and would have sat with him, but once I did that, he slapped me away and said to leave him alone, so I think the incident was over rather fast. I don't recall getting over things nearly so quick and smoothly as a child.

From: [identity profile]

Seven. He also might have just been tired enough that a little snuggle up with an adult was enough to push aside the fears and get back to sleep.

From: [identity profile]

Yeah. In my experience around eight is the time when they sometimes start becoming a bit more independent. Which can include refusing hugs.

From: [identity profile]

We'll see. Then again, he's also the one that hugged a passing pilot as we got off the plane last year, and thanked him for a great flight. (Poor pilot handled the "assualt" with good grace and cheer, even though my son practically flung himself at the man without any warning. And he wasn't even our pilot!)


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