Poor girly, poor family... we had a rough night last night. Harper woke at about 12:40 AM crying with a bad dream. It took her a while to be able to talk about it and at first we thought she wasn't feeling well. Her brow was sweaty, and after she took a few drinks and used the restroom I asked her again if she had had a bad dream. She began to cry and tell us that a monster was trying to eat her. I held the girl as she worked through some of her fear and Ethan and I reassured her that the dream, although it felt real when she was asleep, was only a dream and that real life was her lovey family and her safe house. She laid her little head on my shoulder and neck like she hasn't done in about a year (baby style) and her getting-big body shuttered as she regained her breathing. She hugged tight. When we sang "This is" to her, she wanted to get back in her bed so we set her there and sang the song with all the family members' names (she specifically requested the "Jack Jack" version), and rubbed her little back. We put on a second night light in her room and replayed "The Elephant" song. She went back to sleep hugging Hop, and Daddy told her he was going to be hugging Humphrey bear in his room and sending love through Humphrey to Hop to Harper. Harper liked that idea a lot.
At 2:30 she woke again. Ethan helped her through some more tears and she went back to sleep within five minutes.
At 3:30 she woke again. This time I told E to just bring her to our room. She climbed into bed with us and she slept there until 7:10AM. This morning when I asked her why she struggled last night she said she had seen "two hands coming through the door to get her". This is like the 10th time she's said that she's seen hands on/in her door, usually as she starts to fall asleep at night. E and I are going to try to see what might look like hands on her door tonight and see if we can problem-solve. If there's nothing shadowy causing this, then it may just be our Harper's vivid imagination and we'll continue to work on separating and delineating what is real and what is not, and reassuring her that we're always protecting her.
I guess this is the age for bad dreams. I remember having a few as a child and how terrifying they can be. They come at a time when your pretending and reality can blend so easily and you can be duped. Anyone who's played with girl in the last year knows that when she's pretending, there are moments when you can tell she isn't just playing a part but choosing to believe it, too. She gets invested in her play. If anyone out there, any moms or grandmas, dads or grandpas, uncles or aunts, have good ideas about how to help girly, please pass them on!