The little old lady was bat-shit crazy, and she lunged forward and bit my son’s ear.
I raced him to the hospital, wondering why I didn’t stop her, upset and scared, trying to be strong.
Then I woke up.
Dreams like this, terrible dreams, are happening more and more often lately.
Dreams where I watch one of my sons’ drowning happen more frequently than I care to admit. Always in these awful dreams I am helpless and remorseful. In these dreams, I always have the “Why didn’t I just…” ball of lead in my throat.
Dreams beg to be analyzed, don’t they? So shall we try to figure out what these horrible scenes are about in my heart? What is my subconscious trying to tell me? (And please do not tell me that dreams are the real thing and the times we are awake are our dreams or some other weird movie plot. It will freak me out.)
You should know that I have thought of this already, of course. I feel as though these dreams are the result of the Next Phase of Parenting I have entered. Without me realizing it, this fall my life has a parent has drastically changed.
For the longest time (it isn’t dramatic to say forever, even though I do love my drama), my life as Mom was about keeping them safe from hazardous materials that could take off limbs, singe fingers, cut deeply, and slam teeth. I worried about breastfeeding, sleeping habits, getting enough vegetables down their throats.
I felt wildly connected to my kids. We were tethered tightly but the cord that held us was about meeting their basic survival needs. Life was busy in that phase of parenting, of course. We had schedules and routines. I was constantly making rewards charts and trying to figure out how I could get help cleaning up some of the toys. I wanted to be sure they recognized their letters and colors at an early age.
Now the tether is a different material entirely. Still there, still binding, yet changed.
Now I am responsible for making my kids into reasonable human beings. They know how to eat, they know the rules, they sleep well, they use the toilet. Hooray, I did it! But my job is really just beginning. With this new milestone (which none of you even told me existed – or maybe you did but since I am awful at taking advice I didn’t listen), my role as a parent has become fearsome in deep ways.
I am not the human being I want to be yet. How can I hep someone else become the human being they were meant to be?
My son was kicked in the chest at school. It was over clubs. Someone had created a playground club and my son wasn’t allowed in, so he was kicked. Rest assured, he was fine. The teachers all did what was appropriate, the little boy who did the kicking is actually very good friends with my son (boys!), and my son was completely unfazed. All was well at the school and I have no complaints or “should have”s.
Yet really? I was not okay. He got kicked in the chest; I got kicked in the heart.
I am sending my boys out into the world and it is cruel out there. There will always be a club they won’t be allowed into, I still run into clubs I am not allowed into. And now, at this phase of parenting, I can’t be there to say in a sing-songy voice, “Let’s all play together.” I am no longer in the game, I am the sideline coach. I analyze the plays with them afterward to determine what we can learn together.
I hate that.
As a sideline coach, the driving and the waiting for information to be shared is suffocating in some ways. Before, in the previous phase, we drove a lot but we always walked in the door together. Today, now, I drive them somewhere and watch as their little backs skip into the building without me. The door closes and then I drive home. Alone.
All I can do at that moment is hope and pray that my sideline coaching prepared them to be good human beings in whatever situations they encounter. Then I sit down at my computer, write my heart out, and watch the timer tick down to the next time I have to get into the car to get them and take them to their next place.
I find myself feeling twinges of envy as I watch them leave me. They take a piece of my heart with them; they make me whole.
And at night, I dream terrible things. I feel the helplessness, the concern, the terror of the “what if” moments.
But I also know that the dreams are just dreams. I can’t imagine having it any other way and I am so proud of my sons. I love being a mother to them, I want to hug the tether between us, no matter what it is made of. For when the pieces of my heart return to me, when we talk about the game plays that happened while I was away on the sidelines, life shines as bright as their faces.