Posted by Duff


2:30 pm (yes, afternoon) Saturday: (It seems like) I awaken The Dervish from her nap – slowly raise her shade, leave her door open so she can rejoin us on her terms. She calls to me (typical), but by the time I return, she’s screaming. Bloody. Murder. As in, she thinks her sheets are covered in blood, and pleads–SHRIEKS– for the bleeding to STOP. She crawls desperately along the mattress, slasher victim fashion, eyes open, but unseeing. She gets stuck between the mattress and and her safety rail, and as I dig her out, she slaps and claws at me.

Eventually it ends.  Mental note: magenta sheets – poor choice in a dimly lit room if your child is re-living a slip-and-fall that put her teeth through her lip.

9:30 pm, Saturday: She is full-on crying in her bed, completely asleep, and her father weathers the eye of the proverbial storm while I sleep behind the white noise of our bedroom fan. My shift will come later.

5:00 am, Sunday: I awaken to dog-like whimpering and creep into The Dervish’s  night-lit room. She looks at me. What I fail to notice, though, is that she looks THROUGH me. Had I just backed away, I could have prevented The Perfect Storm. She lies on her side, runs, spinning like a breakdancer. The sound of my voice enrages her. She rises to her knees, spits in my face, throws a sippy cup at my head. The-UH-UH-UH BLEEDING! she gasps between caterwauls.  (Why didn’t I change her sheets earlier?)

Atticus stirs in the next room, and I hope The Dervish won’t fling herself out of bed while I check on him. These outbursts are worrisome to the little guy, and he lies silent, blinking, heart pounding through his pajamas. I promise to be right back, and beat a hasty retreat to the Emergency Binky Bowl.

My Dervish, the long-term addict, has been nighttime binky-free since she cut her lip –the only bonus of the whole experience. But in the depth of pre-dawn, given the frenzy of her exorcism, I’ll try anything. She accepts the token, sinks back into her pillow, still asleep. I’ll be back in twenty minutes for the bink, before she wakes up for real and knows she had it.

I close her door and lean against it, shaken. A moment later, Atticus breaks into peals of laughter — his pre-dawn signal that morning’s here.

No, The Dervish is not possessed by Satan, but rather, night terrors. Most commonly experienced by children from 2-6, but sometimes starting as young as eighteen months, which is when I called the doctor at 9:00 pm to have him listen to rule out appendicitis or meningitis (anyone that deranged and seemingly in pain MUST be suffering from an ‘itis, thought this first-timer). He listened, asked a few questions, and calmly advised me to give it ten more minutes (after which she returned to reality, asked for a waffle, and slept through the night).

We hadn’t seen one in a year, so three in 21 hours seemed a bit much. I called Dr. A again, and after I said, ‘holy exorcism’ his nurse told me, “One time, I swear I saw my sister LEVITATE and throw herself into the wall.”

I felt MUCH better. Not that her sister had done that, or that she witnessed it, but that my pint-sized Linda Blair didn’t seem so extraordinary after all.  The nurse also said that the holiday season is very stressful for kids and they see an increase in this activity for about a month. Joy.

The next day, I was changing the sheets when I asked The Dervish about the night before. She admitted she felt sad, and very calmly said it was because she had been bleeding. Then, she asked:  “Mommy? Remember when I was born and I went through the long tunnel?”

When I got my breath back, I said, “Yes, honey, I remember when you were born. How was that?” I wasn’t sure if she describing a physical experience or a spiritual one, and I figured while she’s three, dramatic, and might still remember, I should try to get the goods.

Of course, this is when she clammed up. But honestly, if I could remember being born, on any level, I’d bet my sleep would be interrupted, too.

Here’s some helpful information about night terrors and how to handle them. Basically, don’t do what I did. Though, you must admit, The Dervish tricked me.