It happened during the holidays. We rented an apartment in San Sebastián. My 7 year old kid started having trouble sleeping. The new house and his strange room gave him the creeps. He was scared. We waited until he fell asleep in the living room and take him to bed, but he started having nightmares and would wake up in the middle of the night and call us.
One day, following that same pattern, he called again, agitated by a new nightmare. I went to his bed. "Dad, there is someone out there!". "No, son, there is no one there, it was just a nightmare, don´t worry and sleep again, I´ll be here". "No, dad, you don´t understand. I woke up, and then I saw someone there!". Right there, in the middle of the night, you hear that and I can tell you freak out a little. I give it a thought and say:
"No, son, don´t worry. You must have woken up like inside your dream. Look, sometimes we dream that we´re sleeping. We wake up but we´re are still in the dream. It´s like a double-dream."
The whole idea makes sense to him, he calms down and gets back to sleep. I´m proud of my clever Inception concept and go back to sleep too.
Next morning, 12 o´clock in the afternoon, it begins. "Dad, am I in a double-dream now, or is this life?". "WHAT?!?!". "Is this a dream?". He looks anxious and distressed while he talks, and I´ve already fallen from the chair. My son is now uncertain whether he´s dreaming?!?! But at that moment, I realize how difficult it is to come up with a cue to actually proves that you are not dreaming. I remember the famous totem idea from the movie, where everyone had an object that has an unnatural behaviour in the dream, therefore observing that totem allows to distinguish reality from dreaming. Leo Di Caprio had his famous spinning top that would not stop spinning in his dreams. But I realize I cannot use any of this with my 7 year old son because, well, it´s total bullshit and a big license in the plot of the movie, so I get back to tradition: "Son, you just pinch your arm and if it hurts, then it´s real life.". He does it, anxiously to find out that yes, he´s living in the real world now.
But it goes on and on, and 3-4 times a day he would ask me again whether he´s in a double dream. Or I catch him pinching himself during the day. I completely messed him up with this idea of the double-dream and, up until today, my son still has trouble telling whether this is all a dream or not. All the time. Nuts.
Think about it for a second. He´s learning, he´s taking that lesson for granted, that a double-dream is what it is: he woke up in the morning, had breakfast, and so on, but his father told him that it may well happen inside a dream. We´ve all had vivid dreams, those that seem so real you were really shocked when you woke up. I believe as you grow up to tend to have fewer of those, but you´ve had them and remember the feeling. They seemed so real! I can totally understand my kid´s confusion around how can I tell life from dream appart. I drove my kid into an existential swirl I just hope he can cope with...
...but, this whole story, crazy as it sounds, drove me nuts as well. I mean, what if he´s right in the end, how can I tell I´m not dreaming now? What the fuck is this life, anyway? In that pit of confusion, the law of attraction made the Microsiervos guys publish, coincidentally, this article Are We Living in a Virtual Reality by a reputed author that will guide you through the different hypothesis about what this life is all about. Read it at your own risk.
As a final remark, my kid reached a new level of weirdness one of those nights. I had fallen asleep with him during one of those episodes. He suddenly jumps in the bed, waking me up, breathing heavily. Seconds later, his eyes looking at the void of the darkness, asks me THE question: "Dad, am I alive?". Fuck man, that is hardcore! I think he must have had a nightmare where he fell from a building or something and, yes, he´s wondering whether this is like when you die. I thought about that for a second, in the middle of the night, and responded with all honesty the only possible answer: "I don´t know, son, I don´t know".