Guest post: The stuff dreams are made of

Molly formerly-Forbes-now-Weaver-except-for-professional-gigs blogs hilariously and thoughtfully at Mother’s Always Right. I’ve been stalking reading Molly for quite some time and was thrilled when she agreed to throw some words our way. Here she tries to decipher the meaning of her non-toddling toddler Frog’s dreams.

The stuff dreams are made of. Or not.

My daughter has started dreaming. I know this fact with unwavering certainty because I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than a week.

The dreams began with the occasional cry in the middle of the night. Nothing major, just a little shout here and there. The reluctant teeth, hiding out under the gums, were inevitably blamed and we all went back to sleep. But then the dreams went up a notch.

There’s nothing spookier than going to calm your crying 17 month old, to discover her lying fast asleep in her cot. It’s the type of experience that’s particularly unwelcome for ghost-phobic types like me, who stupidly choose to live in houses over 500 years old.

I eventually pinpointed the dreams when I brought my daughter into my bed one night. The screams were so loud that by 3am I didn’t have a choice. I needed sleep so the husband was pushed out of bed onto the sofa downstairs and the non-toddling toddler (what do you call a non-walking child of 17 months, by the way?) settled in next to me.

Instantly she fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. For about twenty minutes. And then she sat bolt upright – eyes still closed – and murmured “Mummy”. This was followed by more peaceful sleep, interrupted by another “Mummy”, punctuated by a “tiger”, “woof” and something incomprehensible.

And it was at that moment it dawned on me: my daughter’s dreaming. About me. And tigers. Going “woof”. Hang on a minute, who’s the one going “woof”? She better not be dreaming that I’m a dog. Perhaps she’s dreaming that I’m being eaten by a tiger. What’s worse – being a dog or being eaten by a tiger? And so on and so forth. So consumed was I in trying to unravel these potential dreams, that I didn’t get a wink of sleep for the rest of the night.

So I Googled.

The “Why is my 17 month old daughter dreaming of tigers and does it mean she wants me eaten” search proved fruitless. On simplification I came up with an interesting article about when human beings begin to dream. Turns out no one really knows. Some scientists reckon dreaming could start as early as pre-birth, with foetuses of around 23 weeks experiencing dream sleep. Others argue that children don’t properly dream until they’re around five years old.

And then there’s the whole classification of dreams thing. My idea of dreaming mainly involves Gary Barlow, turning up late for work in just my pants and a recurring nightmare about ducks and ghosts (don’t ask). But I rather doubt the same could be said of a foetus – or even a five year old child come to think of it. So when does a dream become a dream? Is it when we remember them? When we can speak and, therefore, tell everyone about them? Or is it when we’re caught red-handed, dreaming of our mothers turning into dogs and being eaten by tigers?

It’s definitely a question worth sleeping on, if only my dreaming daughter would let me.


  1. MsXpat
    December 12, 2011 / 9:20 am

    Wow, what an thought provoking piece. I don’t know what age children begin to dream, but I yearn for when my son can (he’s 13mths) He still awakes during the night and mostly always crying. I really want to know why he does that. This has really given me something to think about. I hope things settle soon.

  2. Mum2BabyInsomniac
    December 13, 2011 / 8:28 pm

    Really interesting, I have never thought about it before! I have heard of kids getting night terrors though and they sound horrible, I also know that children wake up with nightmares and start going to sleep in their parents bed and then before you know it they are having nightmares every night! ( I used to pretend when I was little). Poor frog, I hope she stops having horrible dreams soon x

  3. December 17, 2011 / 11:46 am

    This is all my guess, but I have always linked my dreams in some respect to something I saw or experienced the day before….it’s almost as if my mind is rewinding at night and odd things that I saw or that struck a chord with me come through in varying manifestations in dreams.  And as an adult, these are often to make sense of so for little ones it must all be quite confusing.  I don’t know if there is a technical point when dreams officially become such, but I expect our children’s minds are working in their sleep and processing the multitude of stuff they absorb each day, thus sometimes leading to some big nighttime brain waves, whatever are supposed to call them! 

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