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Cautionary Tales - Beware The Giant Snail

Updated on April 19, 2011

Beware the Giant Snails And Other Childhood Dreams

I thought we would begin this series of cautionary tales on a light note. Beware the Giant Snails was going to be a humorous look at childhood dreams and the devastating effects that nightmares have of traumatised children and their exhausted mothers. In part, it still is. However it has grown into something much bigger than that. You willfind my tales here - but you'll also find a wealth of information about the nature of dreams. The deeper I delved into the science of dreams (and therefore the science of sleep too) the more fascinated I became. It was a timely reminder of how incredibly complex the human mind is. Be sure to add your thoughts to the comment boxes, I would love to hear about your own childhood experience with dreams.

To better grasp my first tale I shall begin with an overview of my family dynamics. I was a teenage bride - not literally, but by the time I was twenty I had a child, a mortgage and was married...in that order. My sons are named Cody, Caleb and Baby David. I'll refer to my husband as hubby - he likes his privacy!

Dreamer Beware
Dreamer Beware

Giant Snails And Their Huge Tongues

As an artist, a small business owner (www.myoquilterskeepsake.com) and mother of three you can imagine how difficult free time is to find. The "free" time I do find I actually trade for sleep - I do most of my work at night when the kids aren't interrupting me with arguments over the tv remote or toddlers hanging off my leg. This means that I'm very nocturnal. It means that I am always underslept and overtired. I rarely turn the lights out before 2am.

On one such night recently, I crawled into bed exhausted. I was somewhere between awake and asleep when I heard the rapid thumping of little feet on the floor. Caleb (aged 4) came bursting into my room screaming something about giant snails. I peeked through one tired, gritty eye to examine him and muttered "climb in."

As he began to climb up and over my feet to his place in my bed, he let out a blood curdling scream. Shocked, I suddenly found myself bolt upright, both eyes wide open, ready to confront whatever the problem was. Caleb was shaking like nothing I have ever seen before and this time I could make out words like "giant snail...tongue...eat" and "down there." Upon closer inspection of the floor near my bed, I discovered that a cushion from the lounge room had mysteriously walked itself into my room - I suppose it could look like a giant snail in the dark of night. I picked it up to show Caleb then promptly threw it out of sight.

Within seconds another blood curdling sceam issued from his mouth. This time he was pointing at a large round hairclip on my bedside table that I removed upon getting into bed. It the limited light, it's profile vaguely resembled that of a snail. Again, I shed some light on his fear then stored it out of sight.

There was some quibbling over sleeping arrangements (Baby David also co-sleeps with me) so we decided to sacrifice David to the snail and put him on the scarey side of the bed. Meanwhile I offered Caleb my pillow. As we lay down together he was still shaking violently. I closed my eyes and began whispering the truth about snails; how big they grow, what they like to eat, how very slow they are.

Perhaps an hour later I was startled by yet more terrified screams. I quickly soothed him once more and moving him away from the edge of the bed, I swapped places with him, sandwiching him between myself and Baby David the decoy. And so it carried on for another hour or so, Caleb would scream, Baby David would wake and I would settle them again. The sun finally rose.

Over breakfast, I questioned Caleb about what had happened. He recognised that it had been a dream...not that it makes a difference at 3am. Apparently, a giant snail which had made it's home under my chest of draws, had flicked out it's tongue and attempted to eat him as he passed.

Beware The Grey Hand In The Toilet

So here I was with a child that refused to spend any time in the same room as these draws and was clearly traumatised by the experience. Needless to say bedtimes were a riot after that. My own childhood experience with nightmares meant I was very conscious of the need to tread delicately. Whilst silly to us, the fear is valid to him.

I am reminded of a nightmare of my own at a similar age. My dream took place in my childhood toilet and also had a pronounced effect on me.

I vividly recall it. I was going about my usual business when for one reason or another I stood up. I stood, caught with my proverbial pants down, frozen in horror as I watched a withered grey hand climb up and out of the toilet. Upon waking I made a mercy dash for the sanctity of Mum & Dad's room.

Nobody could soothe my fears over the coming days. My two older brothers were most amused by this dream and "reminded" me of it at every opportunity. Terrified, I didn't go near that toilet for a week (don't ask); I even remember running screaming from it on the occasions I tried.

Twenty years later I was recalling this dream to my brother in law (aka Uncle John) who also found it amusing - I don't see the humor personally. The story sounded all to familiar to him and it was at this time I learned that the nightmare had been influenced by an old episode of Dr Who in which a dismembered hand freely roamed the planet strangling those unfortunate enough to encounter it. Answers, at last!

As children, we all seem to have had that place in the house that we avoided at night or that one dream that scarred us.

The hubby had demons in his linen cupboard...which was compounded by the fact that not only did it stand between him and the sanctity of Mum & Dad's room, it was also adjacent to his bedroom!

Our eldest, Cody, was four(ish) when he was kidnapped by a ghost "with a really cool car" causing much distress.

Many young children are soothed by the thought of a security blanket.
Many young children are soothed by the thought of a security blanket.

The Bomb Proof Blanket

Watching my child so distressed at the thought of going to bed prompted me to seek a soloution. In a stroke of genious (it's been known to happen) I recalled a very special blanket that had been gifted to Cody at the time of his kidnap by the ghost with impecible taste in vehicles. I knew that it had been lost for many years so I searched my linen cupboard for a suitable replacement.

And so Caleb now sleeps each night under the protection of Uncle John's Bomb Proof Blanket - guarenteed to protect the user from all things scary.

I love this blanket. I mean you could drop a bomb on this thing and you would still be safe...what hope does a giant snail have?

What was your childhood nightmare and how did it effect you?

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    Are you happy with the way your worst nightmare was dealt with as a child?

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    Does it still have any influence on your life today?

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    Nightmares and the more serious night terrors often leave the child to traumatised to sleep at night.
    Nightmares and the more serious night terrors often leave the child to traumatised to sleep at night.

    Nightmares need to be treated delicately:

    • Promptly soothe your child after a nightmare - be prepared.
    • Be prepared to share your bed or wait with your child until he/she is asleep
    • Never ignore the problem

    • Discuss your childs dream with them and make sure they understand that dreams/nightmares are common.
    • Do this during daylight hours when your child can think more rationally
    • Stay calm - nobody appreciates broken sleep but if your child senses your anger or frustration the problem may escalate.
    • Consider dream "tools" such as the Bomb Proof Blanket, nightlights or a baby monitor so your child will feel secure - home should be a safe place to fall, nobody likes to feel insecure there.
    • You may like to act out your childs dream with a pantomime or puppets. Offer your child ways of giving their nightmare a happy or funny ending.
    • Seek help from your GP, Child Health Nurse or a local Parentline if you sense the problem is bigger than you or may indicate a serious trauma like abuse.

    Have you had an experience with predictive, clairvoyant or telepathic dreams?

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    Clearing Up Dream Mythconceptions:

    • Eating ice-cream before bed does not give you nightmares.
    • You can actually influence your dreams by dwelling on pre-sleep dream suggestions.
    • Predictive dreams - there have been a few studies into predictive dreams as well as telepathic and clairvoyant dreams but the findings have been varied. Generally, predictive dreams are thought of to be caused when the unconscious mind ties together known information or coincidence.
    • Dream Dictionaries are generally unuseful at best. Whilst dreams or their elements tend to persist across different persons, cultures, and times, the symbols or elements will have different values to different people ie a snake dream to a snake handler will have a different meaning to someone who is scared of snakes.
    • There's actually an old myth that you will genuinely die if you hit the bottom in your falling dream or if you die in your sleep! False, obviously. More commonly death dreams are thought to be associated with the end of an era/chapter in your life.
    • Lucid dreams (being aware that you are dreaming during the dream) - Turns out that with some training you can actually learn to control your dreams. Some aspects of the dream are easier to influence than others however you cannot control every part of the dream.

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      • nicomp profile image

        nicomp really 4 years ago from Ohio, USA

        "...often leave the child to traumatised to sleep..."

        'too traumatized'

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