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Dreaming of some flying shoes

July 7, 2009

I was folding laundry the other day when I heard the rising sound of running feet. Little toes striking the wood floor through the living room, up the hallway…then Graysen burst into the bedroom and leapt onto the bed with a wild look in his eye.

“Oh mom,” he said, “I need some flying shoes.”

“Flying shoes?” I inquired, folding his little tee-shirt that reads “Lover Boy.”

“Yeah,” he confirmed, hand over his racing heart. “So I can fly over the monsters.”

According to him, there are monsters in all the darkened corners, lurking in empty rooms, hiding in the shower. Trips to the bathroom require an escort — anyone older and taller than he who doesn’t mind standing in the doorway as he plants himself on the pot and talks about random things.

Things like his dreams, which lately are filled with scary “monster guts.”

“Mom, in my dream Mira turned into monster guts with teeth!” he related during one of his recent potty breaks. In the same dream I turned into a pink monster ghost with four eyes.

Such is the stuff of a small boy’s nightmares.

When I was a child I dreamed that Zozobra ate my blankie and breathed fire on my house. When I was a bit older I worried that a lion or tiger would jump out from beneath my bed and grab me if I got up after the lights went out.

Later I had a quaking fear of nuclear war … and my dreams reflected that. I can still see one of them as though I dreamt it just last night.

But then I had Soren, and the nightmares changed. The monsters I began to fear didn’t resemble the ones that have found footing in Gray’s imagination. Mine were more tangible — they were anything that would hurt my child. Bringing Soren into the world meant that I suddenly found myself looking into the eyes of a person for whom I would have both died and killed.

It was the first time I’d felt that way to that extent.

At first it was confusing and painful to love him so much. I felt like an open wound, checking him at naptime to make sure he was still breathing … rushing to every tiny cry. I accidentally poked his tummy with a diaper pin when he was just a few weeks old, and cried harder than he did.

We passed those first few weeks living at the most basic level of instinct, every emotion profound and extreme.

The vulnerability was exhausting.

I went through this to some extent with each of my four kids, and eventually came to better understand that raw side of myself. But though I hoped that my deeper understanding would make the rawness easier to bear, I can’t say that it ever did.

It’s one thing to picture a tiger under your own bed, and quite another to imagine it lurking beneath your child’s.

When I heard of the accident at the end of June that killed four teenagers and left another in critical condition, I felt that raw emotion rise up inside of me. Though I didn’t know those kids personally, I could connect myself and my experience to each of them on some level. Two of them attended my high school; the others, my daughter’s school. One of them was in her gardening club.

But there it ends, aside from some connections through mutual friends.

Still, there’s something about that raw state of being that makes every child my child. I cried for them.

I cried as well for the mother of the driver who hit them. In a different but still very painful way, she lost a child too.

In the days following the accident I’m sure I wasn’t the only mother who proclaimed something like “that’s it, my kids are never driving … or … leaving my sight again ever.” And given that Soren is now old enough to take driver’s ed, I spent a lot of time thinking about this very matter.

But he and I talked about it, and I found myself telling him that a devastating accident could happen to anyone. In this society, I told him, we rely on agreements.

“I trust, for example, that the guy in the truck over there will stop at the stop sign,” I elaborated, pointing as I drove. The guy stopped.

“But,” I added, “we can’t always know that they won’t break their agreements. And we can’t happily live our lives assuming that they will. There’s a very fine line between being paranoid and being cautious.”

I’ll admit that I was relieved to hear Soren say he isn’t in any hurry to drive … yet. But when he is ready it will be appropriate of me to let him step away into that big new responsibility by degrees. Even the child who brought me to the very edge of myself for the first time must grow up someday.

Perhaps he’ll wait long enough, however, for someone to invent some flying shoes … so that he and every other child in this great big world can fly over the monsters.

© 2009 Ana June. All rights reserved.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2009 6:12 pm

    Cautious vs paranoid…I fight that one every day.

  2. auntiehallie permalink
    July 9, 2009 2:18 am


    I can only imagine how my folks felt when I wrecked the car. (Even though they told me.) I was still a horrible snot about the restrictions they put on my driving afterward.

    The lack of that raw vulnerability is such a comfort.


    I hate to think the kids are now getting old enough to drive … and their natural caution comforts me. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. We love them too much. It just hurts.

    Will it ever stop hurting? My god, I’m not even their mom! aaagh.

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