Real. 

Those of you following along at home will recall that we have been reading the Harry Potter series. We are on the fourth book, where, arguably, shit starts getting real. There have been scary parts in all of the three previous books, but he’s been largely unaffected. He did have a spate of nighttime wake-ups accompanied by whimpering, but they seemed unrelated to the pre-bedtime reading we had been doing. But then when he had a vivid and obvious nightmare from the first chapter of this fourth book, we decided to change up our routine and read it earlier in the day instead, sticking to innocuous storybooks and songs at bedtime. 

Of course, anyone who has read the books also remembers that after that first chapter of doom, there are several chapters of hum-drum harmless Quidditch World Cup storytelling. So inoffensive were these chapters that we switched back to reading at night. Of course, again, anyone who has read the books remembers that after the World Cup immediately comes some serious business, such that at the end of tonight’s chapter, he said, “Maybe we shouldn’t have read this one right before bed…”

In order to turn it around before leaving him alone in his dark room (and because, as he recently reminded me, his current dream-catcher must be full by now, so we need to make a new one) I reminded him about driving now his own dreams. We had recently learned on Brains On!, the science podcast we listen to, that  you can set the tone of your own dreams and that if you think something right before you fall asleep, sometimes you can dream it. 

To that end, I helped him create a scenario in which he is playing baseball with his best pal and hits one so hard and so well that it sails over the neighborhood field, over the concession stand at the other end, over the fence, over the entire school playground, and lands with a thunk in front of the doors to the kindergarten classrooms. Promptly, his beloved kindergarten teacher from last year comes outside, picks up the ball, hands it to him in amazement, and says, “great job!”

The smile on his face was magnificent as he drifted off to sleep with this scene playing out in his head and I have not heard a peep out of him all night. Maybe we have found the remedy to bedtime scary Potter chapters. 

Fingers crossed. 

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