earth below us

I had a sleepless night last night, and I’m dragging today. The Bee woke me up at 1:30 in the morning, just wanting to get tucked back into bed after getting up to use the bathroom. Then the Potato climbed in next to me at 3:30, because he was ‘coldie’–which is what happens when you kick off your covers every night, and insist on wearing shorts to bed. After letting him kick me in the ribs for about 20 minutes, I finally put him back in his own bed, where he snuggled cozily and fell asleep.

And that’s when my real trouble started.

I’m sure every parent has one dream that reveals their deepest fear, one terror about something really bad happening to their kids. Mine all revolve around massive heights and careless kids. I’ve dreamed about one of my kids falling off the Golden Gate Bridge, or off the top of a Ferris Wheel. Last night, it was one of those rope bridges across an Amazon gorge, like you’d see in a movie.

There’s never any explanation of how we happened to end up in the ridiculously high place. I think the likelihood that we’ll ever be in the Amazon is pretty slim, frankly, but it’s evidently a major concern to my subconscious.

Regardless of the circumstance, the horrible part of the dream, the part that keeps me awake, the part that, once I’ve dreamt it, keeps replaying over and over again in my mind, is the moment when one of my children goes over the edge. And I watch them fall.

It doesn’t matter if I try to stop the fall, or if I just stand there dumbly, the child always falls, and I’m always left behind.

I’m not sure why my subconscious picked this dream to stand in for all my fears about my children. I was never afraid of heights before my kids were born. But when I became a parent, all kinds of things that never used to scare me adopted whole new, frightening postures. And what’s worse is the feeling that I will never go back to the state of fearlessness that I used to enjoy. I can’t unmake myself as a parent, nor would I want to do so. But I’d sure like to stop having that dream.

Normally, when I have this dream, that’s it for my night’s sleep. I lie awake, or get up and go read somewhere else in the house so landisdad can still sleep. Every time I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep, that last image of a kid falling haunts me. Last night, I tried some creative visualization. I imagined us all harnessed together, I thought about how we could crawl instead of walk across the bridge, I (mentally) carried the Potato piggyback.

I thought about what’s hiding behind this dream, about my real fears for my children. The dream is a metaphor, of course, for my fear that I will not be looking at them at the most important moment, that I won’t be careful enough, won’t be meticulous enough with these, my most precious loves. I worry that in a world like this, you can never know which moment is most important until it’s too late.

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April 3, 2007. thoughtful parenting. 8 comments.