Sometimes I think I don’t love my kids enough. For example, last night my 10-year-old son Lucas wanted me to help him with his Halloween costume. I very grudgingly participated for only a few minutes (tried not to show the “grudging” part) and then was relieved when he was able to handle the majority of the actual work by himself.
WHAT A HORRIBLE MOTHER I AM, RIGHT?
Then, last night, I had this dream that Lucas was going away to college. My husband had found a little rundown apartment building to rent a space in, but it didn’t even have a private bathroom. It was filthy, and the other tenants looked like drug addicts, lying around staring into space with vacant eyes. I didn’t like it, but my husband kept insisting that this was the way of things, that you have to push your kids out into the ugly world and let them figure stuff out on their own. That was how HE did it, after all.
Reluctantly, I went along with dropping my child off at this nasty apartment building, his new home. We didn’t even go in with him – just pointed to the second floor and said, “It’s that one up there. Go on now, Son.” (Of course, in my dream, though he was supposed to be an adult going off to college, he still looked like my little 10-year-old boy.) He did it, though – he got out of the car and went up to that scary apartment all by his little skinny self.
Later, at home, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t help but think it was wrong the way we had pushed him away with no help at all. We hadn’t shopped for furniture, he didn’t have a job or money or even sheets to sleep on. How would he SLEEP? What was he eating?? He hadn’t even taken a suitcase, for Pete’s sake!
So, too overcome with worry to stop myself, I got in the car and drove over to the apartment building. It was even scarier in the wee hours of morning, with menacing characters lurking about in the shadows. Lucas wasn’t in his room. I checked the bathroom, and he wasn’t there. Finally I found him in a different bathroom, alone, crying. I ran to him and asked what was wrong, though of course, I knew. We’d abandoned him in this terrible place.
“I cut myself,” he said, pointing to his knee. There was a bloody gash there.
“But…what about your room, and…we didn’t give you anything. You’re here all alone with…nothing. Isn’t that why you’re crying?”
He shrugged. “Nah, I just hurt my knee, mom.”
But what had he been doing all night with no furniture, no food, no sheets or blankets? Had he just been sitting there all alone staring at the dirt-smeared wall? How on earth could he have survived like that? And why wasn’t he angry with me? I took him back home. Told him we were going to go out the next day and find him a job, get him some furnishings, pack up his clothes and things, at least try to make the place livable.
This morning when I woke the real Lucas up for school, I told him my dream. He shook his head and smiled and said, “That’s something only a mom would dream.”
I know it was a dream of metaphors. I know the scary apartment building represented the world, and that Lucas’s lack of possessions represented my fear of inadequacy of a mother. I know the dream means I’m scared that when it’s time for Lucas to go his own way, I won’t have prepared him enough or given him the tools to succeed. That I’ll look back and realize that I forgot to give him even the most basic necessities to survive.
And the dream was about guilt. Just like I was lazy about helping Lucas with his Halloween costume in real life, in my dream I was lazy about standing up to my husband and at least letting the poor kid pack a few things. But I did give myself a do-over in the dream. Although I was going to send Lucas back to that same ugly apartment building, the second time around, he’d be better prepared.
In the end, the dream was me reminding myself that though I might not have much power over the world I’ll send Lucas out in, I do have some control over how prepared he is to live in it.
Sometimes I think I don’t love my kids enough. But they know. Something only a mom would dream…
And I guess, deep down, so do I.
NOTE: My husband is not a callous jerk in real life, and his parents helped him a ton when they sent him out into the real world.