July 16, 2008
When do children start to understand the idea of dreams? That they see images when they sleep - images that are part of an altered state of consciousness, that feel real but aren't actually happening? Many of Lara's books feature characters dreaming, a plot point usually illustrated by thought bubbles coming out of the head of a sleeping figure. But interpreting this image seems more akin to learning that a stick figure with down-turned eyebrows signifies anger and that wavy lines drawn around a body part represent movement - in other words, learning about thought bubbles in illustrations is more closely related to reading, to slowly internalizing the abstract squiggles we use as notation. How would a child connect that to what is happening in sleep?
I have memories of childhood dreams - a recurring nightmare and a recurring happy flying dream - but clearly to have a memory of telling someone else about them I must have been much older than Lara is. Of course I have no sense of when I learned that however scary or exhilarating, they weren't experiential. Was there ever a time when I woke and thought that I had actually been flying?
Recently we started asking Lara, "Did you have any dreams? What did you dream about?" as part of her waking-up routine. For a long time - maybe a month? - her answer was a repeated "I dreamed about bones!" We can't exactly figure out where she got this, but it seemed somehow related to Lady and the Tramp, which she saw the day before the first "bone dream", and the scene of Jock hastily burying his bones in the ground before Lady sees where his hiding spot is. I think we were so excited to have her say she dreamed about anything that she then decided this was the right answer to the question. You know, along the lines of "How are you?" "I'm fine." - just something you say. Then I think as she got more of a sense of the word "about" as it relates to stories and books, so she would sometimes answer, "I dreamed about Mommy!" or another person. Today, after a couple of weeks of having no answer at all, she said, "I dreamed about doggies," which made me to wonder - at what point is she actually remembering a dream she had? Maybe she really did dream about doggies this time?