{Nightmares and Day Dreams: For Our Children}

bad dreams
we free fall together.

an enormous wall, grows looming.
the waves rise and fall

the pull
of the tide, a wall

in the distance threatens drowning.
i grab for her,

shouting
“raise your head.”

and still, it comes.

8462158314_6dd9b2ae32“Childhood: that happy period when nightmares occur only during sleep.” (Unknown)

I have always believed that a parent’s job is to protect. 

Our children come squalling into the world, bloody and innocent, at risk.  As we push them out of our body we are committing to make their world safe.  We make a promise that we will provide every opportunity for them to thrive.

I have always believed; I was wrong.

We cannot protect our children fully.  At a certain point this safety net we so carefully construct around them hurts them. As they flail, or run away from us, as they pull and long to soar, our net of safety, it constrains them.

On the other hand, I always understood that scrapes on the knees were important.  The physical scars that come from running hard, playing insane and wild in the backyard, from jumping off the swings as

just for a minute, they imagine

they can fly!

These experiences toughen up a child and teach them about life.

In real life, you cannot fly.

My youngest wears a tiny, centimeters long scar on his chin which has lasted when other scars have faded.  He was running through, round and round in an utterly maddening and charming way, in my parents Colorado kitchen.  As a toddler, he was curious and strong. unafraid. Chubby, teetering, always about to fall, he loved to run the circuit of their kitchen, dining area, living room and back to kitchen driving my father mad!

But there was a rug and it tripped him.  Down he went. Down, with blood spurting from his beautiful chubby chin.

No stitches only a scar, which sits on his chin today to remind me that I cannot keep him safe even when I know the dangers.

I’ve walked the path of life; I know well certain things that are sure to trip them up.  That tiny, sliver of a scar reminds me, though I want to ignore it, that

children need to fall down.

It is Elizabeth Stone who said the truest of words, “Making a decision to have a child is momentous – it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

When your heart is hurting because children will get hurt, there isn’t much you can do.  I mean, these hard times of adolescence come quickly. 

I blinked and the wonderful days of stinky diapers and toddler-hood, learning first words, proud scribbling on paper and walls, putting blocks in the right shapes; those days of innocence are so quickly gone.

Overnight. They become small adults, a scrawny teen wearing pants the long length of a man and I wonder at it.  How did we get here?  I’m still holding on so tightly, trying to keep that net of safety around.

It constrains.

Our children need to run, to let go of the sweaty grip of our hand, to fly away from us little by little.

We cannot hold them, at a certain point.  We cannot choose for them.  We cannot do the hard work of homework, and friendship, and the heart searching for God in a big and wide universe, or for young love, and we cannot even do the work of mental and physical health.  We cannot do it for them.  In many ways, we must step aside and

let them fly;

Up and out the door of our hearts, taking our heart with them.

I feel the time slipping.

: I learn to be open-handed,

I must teach them to look up and out, not fearfully down.

To lean forward, toward life, hopeful.  To be filled, fully taking life in, not afraid.

And only then, we become – ears to hear them, when the troubles of life overcome. Eyes to see them when the world seems to not value how unique and incredible they are,

And then,

Less and less, we use our

Mouth to shape, advise and teach but from time to time, still we are doing the hard work of instilling day dreams.

Being a parent is difficult. What was once intuitive and charming becomes jagged and painful, a tidal-wave, the stuff of bad dreams.

Even as I dreampt of drowning, of not being able to pull my daughter from the waves

I woke, and knew that I cannot save my own children.

I have done the work of preparing imperfectly, of praying much less than I should, and now in many ways I must begin

again, by letting go.  And getting on

with day dreaming of my own.

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